Book Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus

Description from the publisher:

This is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without. 

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.

Despite the excellent reviews this book has been getting, I can’t exactly say I was excited to read it. I had a pretty good feeling the experience would feel akin to my heart being ripped from my body and cut into tiny pieces in front of me while I bawled helplessly and boy, I wasn’t wrong. This book literally made me weep so intensely I got a migraine and had to stay home from work for a day to recover.

Still, I’m not sorry I went through the beautiful ordeal of reading Lily and the Octopus. It’s a seriously lovely, charming, funny book. I didn’t want it to end (mostly because I knew what would happen when it did.)

Grab some tissues, (seriously, all of them) and read this book.

Hello, my name is Kelley and I am obsessed with The VVitch


I enjoy horror more than most genres, but I’m fairly specific when it comes to the type of horror I enjoy. I’m not a fan of gore. I find jump scares to be effective in the moment, but am left feeling cold after the movie is over. I want horror to sit with me, to crawl under my skin and emerge when I find myself alone, or when I’m trying to go to sleep. I like being scared, as in really and truly frightened, not just freaked out.

I’m one of those people who will go on about how horror movies aren’t scary anymore. It’s all gore and grossness and blood and pushing the envelope in terms of how disgusting a murder can be portrayed. Or it’s lazy iterations and reiterations of scary dolls and serial killers. There are no surprises, only shock value. It’s gotten to the point where I wonder how such grotesqueness can be so…boring.

I will freely admit that I’m a total cliche – my favorite horror film is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. I went through a phase when I was around 11 or 12 where I kept the VHS that my mom recorded it on in the VCR in my room and every single day when I got home from school, I’d rewind it (from the day before) and watch it while I did my homework. Every. Single. Day. In hindsight, it was more than a little strange. Still, I loved it so much and never thought I’d find another movie that bewitched me as much.

Until I saw The VVitch.

With that context in mind, I’m not exaggerating even a little when I say that there is no higher compliment I can pay a film than that.

I decided I wanted to know as little as possible about The VVitch (and I’ve decided that you should too, so I’ll keep this spoiler-free) after viewing the trailer and feeling sufficiently creeped out. I read reviews that said things like “it feels like we are watching something we shouldn’t be seeing” or “I felt like I was watching something genuinely evil” and got goosebumps and was instantly sold. (Like a totally normal, well-adjusted human!) I expected to be very scared, and I was. But it was a kind of scared that I haven’t felt for a very long time.

My mother liked horror as well, and because I was so weirdly attached to The Shining, thought I might enjoy some of her favorite movies. She thought I was too young for The Exorcist, but showed me Rosemary’s Baby and Carrie and Halloween. And then she showed me the 1976 film, The Omen. I remember that one very vividly because it was the first time I felt like I was watching something evil.

My mother raised me to be Catholic, as her parents raised her to be. She went to Catholic school, church every day, confession once a week, the whole nine yards. I didn’t go to Catholic school, but to church and Sunday school every week and to confession regularly. We watched The Omen and my mom noticed about 3/4 of the way through that I was crying. Not sobbing crying, not making a sound really. Just silently weeping, with big ol’ tears rolling down my cheeks. She paused the movie and asked if I was alright and I turned to her and said “I just don’t understand why God would let all of these bad things happen to these people. Why doesn’t he stop it?”

My poor mother probably expected this question eventually regarding real life tragedies, like war or famine, but here I was, asking some of the biggest questions you can ask concerning faith about a movie she was pretty sure I would enjoy because I loved The Shining. She had no idea what to say. I remember her stammering something about faith and free will, and said that we should probably turn the movie off. I actually kind of wanted to, but said that it was okay and I wanted to see how it ended. She hesitated again, probably thinking of how that movie doesn’t exactly feature a classic ending of good guys persevering.

I thought about that viewing experience near the end of The VVitch. Only this time I wasn’t weeping; I was transfixed. I think anyone could enjoy this film, but I also think it’s a different experience for a religious audience, no matter deep your faith lies. Even if you only believed once upon a time. Several scenes throughout left me with the same feelings I read about, like I was watching something genuinely evil. I felt like I was intruding on a real family and the terrible things happening to them. One scene in particular nearly inspired me to cross myself.

But I found myself rooting for the ending as it happened, feeling at once like it was tragic and somehow happy and the only way the film could possibly have ended. When the question, “woulds’t thou like to live deliciously?” is asked, I actually, literally whispered “yes.” Out loud.

God, eleven year old Kelley would be appalled.

Did you see The VVItch? VVhat did you think?

Read These

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng | “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

This book snuck up on me and I didn’t realize how affected I was until it was nearly over. Each member of Lee family became my favorite as they took turns sharing their perspective. Again and again, around and around, I found myself sympathizing and understanding and wishing they were better at communicating with each other. Honestly, this book really broke my heart, so if you decide to read it, I’d advise you to grab some tissues beforehand.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud |  David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding  what  to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier. 

I haven’t read many graphic novels. Actually, this is one of only a handful that I have read total, and one of only two I read last year (the other being Saga.) I was moved by The Sculptor more than most of the stories I’ve read recently, and anything that moves me will likely leave me recommending them to anyone within earshot.

The Sculptor is about a guy who is struggling to become someone great. He wants to make great work, and he wants to be recognized as Someone Who Makes Great Work. Many people will tell you that creative work should be done for its own sake, and while I definitely agree, I can also admit that sometimes I only wish that were the whole truth. For many, respect and earning a living and achieving celebrity are also important aspects of creative ambitions. This book gave me a lot to think about in that regard.  But, as per usual, I’m also a sucker for a love story, and the love-tinged, tragic plot line is what drew me to this story in the first place. Boy has dream. Boy makes deal with death to achieve dream. Boy meets girl. Boy regrets said deal instantly. Hijinks ensue. I really loved this book.


The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. CareyMelanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The less you know about this book, the better, so I won’t say much except that I absolutely devoured it.


All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam ToewsElf and Yoli are sisters. While on the surface Elfrieda’s is an enviable life (she’s a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, and happily married) and Yolandi’s a mess (she’s divorced and broke, with two teenagers growing up too quickly), they are fiercely close—raised in a Mennonite household and sharing the hardship of Elf’s desire to end her own life. After Elf’s latest attempt, Yoli must quickly determine how to keep her family from falling apart, how to keep her own heart from breaking, and what it means to love someone who wants to die.

This is my favorite book that I read in 2015. If you’ve ever grieved someone who has taken their own life, I implore you to read this beautiful story.

What books have you loved lately?

Link Love

Here are some of my favorite things I found around the internet this week:

  • I’ve spent the past year or so on a de-cluttering kick and was greatly inspired (like everyone else) by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpA natural side effect of clearing one’s space is the desire to clear one’s mind, and that’s where this book will hopefully come in handy. After all, I’m already finding this chart to be very helpful:

  • I’m so sad about David Bowie and was moved to tears by his last music video. I’m enormously inspired by such a provocative and fearless artist whose creativity lasted until the very end of his life.
  • I also really love to find out the favorite books of people I admire, so I was excited to see which books he recommends.
  • I’m also so sad about Alan Rickman and got all weepy while reading this article, which turned into ugly tears by the time I got to this:

    Alan Rickman’s goodbye letter to Harry Potter

  • I got a kick out of this fun video of a couple guys snowboarding through the streets of NYC during snowmageddon this past weekend.

Happy perusing and happy weekend!

Link Love

Here are some of my favorite things I found around the internet this week:

  • If you are a fan of Bravo and a fan of podcasts, you’ve probably heard of “Watch What Crappens.” If not, this interview provides a nice introduction. I do a happy dance every time a new episode is released and it makes me laugh out loud in public (never a good idea on the quiet car of the MARC train) and watch more Bravo shows than I already did just to get the context of their jokes. I like it so much that I recently became a patron via Patreon for the very first time to show support and get access to the bonus content. It’s hilarious.
  • I actually found this last week, but I have a feeling I will be revisiting it for a while. Each year, NPR puts out their best-of lists, and they are always chock full of excellent recommendations. If the library revokes my card for placing too many holds at once, this list is to blame.
  • I really enjoyed this article about Jane and Kurt Vonnegut and how she helped his writing ambitions come to fruition.
  • Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple weeks, you’ve likely heard of the Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. If you haven’t watched it, here is a nice intro and I seriously recommend that you check it out. I won’t go into where I landed on Steven Avery’s guilt, but I will say that it literally kept me on the edge of my seat and I’ve thought about it every day since.

Happy perusing and happy weekend!