Samantha Leigh Miller

writer, reader, teacher

The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Before beginning this post, I searched the house for my copy of Eat, Pray, Love.  I thought it would be interesting to compare the writing style between the books, since I thought I remembered that Gilbert sounds like a more serious Mindy Kaling in the former (have you read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? […]

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

This is a big book, with a big story, and a big THEME.  The English teacher in me wants to dissect what Tartt has to say about “art for art’s sake” what with the painting of the goldfinch that the lead character steals from the museum in the moments after the bomb goes off and […]

Euphoria, by Lily King

In one of the multiverses (and now I’m betraying my begrudging enjoyment those movies), I would have definitely lived the life of Margaret Mead.  She was born in Philadelphia, close to where I grew up, went to school at Columbia, where my father did, and traveled to foreign lands to learn about cultures and peoples […]

The Weight of Heaven, by Thrity Umrigar

There is a bit of a sadist in me, especially when it comes to reading material.  I can be drawn to the darkest stories, if only to vicariously experience my deepest nightmares from the safety of the page.  I read The Year of Fog to drown in the idea of my child being kidnapped, and […]

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

When Death tells you a story, you have to listen.  Especially when Death is also a poet and stuck in a dead-end job from which he can never take a vacation.  The story Death tells might be set in Nazi Germany and it might be about a little girl named Liesel who’s lost her brother […]

Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks

Having lived through a plague (“lived”? Past tense? Please?) you’d think delving into the world of 1666 London during a wave of the Black Death would be the last thing we need, but no!  It’s exactly the sort of catharsis many of us need.  I read the novel a few years ago and was swept […]

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

Everyone has recommended this book, but I will too, since popularity doesn’t always negate worth.  And this is a worthy book—for its characters, its time period, and for its ability to paint such an utterly human portrait of complex relationships.  Selfishly, I’m always curious and eager to learn from writers who write characters from outside […]

Little Altars Everywhere, by Rebecca Wells

Read this one for the voice alone.  Sidda lived in my head for a little while as she led me through this story.  I’m in awe of a writer who can create a character so alive you feel her breathing in the room with you as you read. Didn’t continue with the rest of the […]

The Passage, by Justin Cronin

Yes, ok vampires, but these “virals” surprisingly take a back seat to Cronin’s apocalyptic (and forever timely, it seems) tale that ultimately pumps more human heart than human blood.  If you’re a writer, read the opening of the novel as a near-perfect example of character/plot introduction.  Read the rest of the novel for a story […]

The Year of Fog, by Michelle Richmond

If books let us live out various vicarious lives, this one guided me through one of my deepest fears—the disappearance of my child.  The writing was a bit stilted at times, but the story was brutal and kept me going, even when I wanted to put it down.  Setting it in San Francisco was a […]