Off the Books

In my most recent review of It’s Great to Suck at Something, I was reminded of one thing I suck at but I love to do, drawing.

So I pulled out a sketch pad and drew several dresses inspired by my love of fashion. Here are a few sketches. Enjoy… or don’t.





Book Review: It’s Great to Suck at Something by Karen Rinaldi


Well, isn’t that a comforting title? It sure is to me. I suck at quite a few things like math, parallel parking, and most sports. And not to be judgemental, but you probably suck at something, too.

Sadly, we live in a society that rips us up both professionally and personally. We suck as employees, parents, and as romantic partners. We are failures if we choose the “wrong” college major, are coping with health issues, or have physiques that are less than perfect.

It’s enough to make to one make curl up into the fetal position, feeling like a total loser.

Well, my readers, I think you’re pretty darn terrific. And if you suck at something, don’t beat yourself up. You’re human. Seriously, is World War Three going to break out because I’m bad at sports? Doubtful.

And guess what? It’s okay to suck at things you enjoy doing. Rinaldi sucks at surfing even though she’s been doing it for years. She does it for the pure joy of it.

Which brings us to her book It’s Great to Suck at Something.

Does your dancing make Elaine on Seinfeld look like Misty Copeland? Who cares? Dance up a storm!

Do you suck at basketball? Enjoy the exercise and remember even LeBron James has missed a few baskets.

Do you suck at writing poetry? Buy a lovely journal and write those sonnets, haikus, and free verse anyway.

After a brief introduction, It’s Great to Suck at Something is divided into seven distinct chapters, which Rinaldi calls Waves. Each Wave offers a rule, a lesson, and a benefit at sucking.

In vivid detail Rinaldi writes about the good, the bad, and the ugly of her surfing life, which includes a gory injury to her nether region, something she calls a “second vagina.” A second vagina is something only welcomed in porn. Or perhaps another vagina related product Gwyneth Paltrow will curate and market. Shudder.

But Rinaldi doesn’t only write about sucking at surfing. She writes about her loving family, moving to Costa Rica on a whim, and a horrible bout with breast cancer.

But It’s Great to Suck at Something isn’t just a memoir. It’s a call to arms on how sucking at something can bring a sense of delight and accomplishment while also teaching us about perseverance, determination, and the things in life that are truly worthy.

And Rinaldi doesn’t rely solely on her own life and words. She also uses the lives and words of Jean-Paul Satre, Brene Brown, and the late Anthony Bourdain. She also provides an ample list of notes, citations, and bibliography to back up her findings.

Keep in mind Rinaldi doesn’t want us to do things we suck at if it will harm us and others. If you’re going to suck as a spouse don’t get married. If you’re a bad driver you probably shouldn’t take a gig with Uber. And if you’re going to stink as President of the United States…oops, too late.

I thoroughly enjoyed It’s Great to Suck at Something, and not just for the tale it tells. I really like Rinaldi’s writing voice, which draws you in and keeps you reading. She’s convincing without being preachy and she’s snarky without being mean-spirited.

Rinaldi may suck at surfing, but she shines as a writer.




Book Review: Nina’s Memento Mori by Mathias B. Freese


I have no doubt my much appreciated readers remember the name Mathias B. Freese. I reviewed his memoir When I’m Alone.

Mr.Freese is back with another memoir, this time about his relationship with his late second wife, Nina. This memoir is called Nina’s Memento Mori.

Two lovebirds in their.golden years, Mathias and Nina meet in a very modern  They bond over troubled childhoods, failedrelationships, heartbreak, shared interests, and so on. But they connected the way that knows no age-true blue love.

One way Mathias and Nina bonded was through a shared love of movies. Freese uses various film terms like fade-in, dissolve, close-up, and director’s cut. And Nina’s Memento Mori is divided into five parts:

  1. Ticket, please
  2. Four Takes
  3. Intermission: Tesserae
  4. Cutting Room
  5. Coda

As a movie fan-especially of the classics-I loved this clever touch.

Throughout Nina’s Memento Mori are photographs. Some are of Nina as a little girl with blonde curls, wearing pinafores and smiling in a way that belies here problematic homelife. And then there are photos of Nina as young woman, slender and, gamine. Her face is both stoic and lovely, determined to overcome her past as only she can. She has a beauty no longer welcomed in an age of plastic Instagram models and reality show manneqins.

Freese writes in a style that is sensitive and compelling, but never maudlin and self-pitying. He writes so vividly of Nina and their marriage that I can’t help but see this book  in cinematic form. Who should play Nina? Then again perhaps Nina Memento Mori is best served not touched by celluloid. I am satisfied to see Nina in my mind’s eye.

Hello My Lovely Readers and Hopefully Advisors

It’s no secret a new year is a time of resolutions. As we embark on not just a new year but a new decade I want 2020 to be a time of renewal.

One act of renewal I want to do in 2020 is find a new job. And that’s where all of you come in.

If any of you can offer any job searching tips and/or opportunities I’d greatly appreciate it.

You know me primarily as an internationally recognized book critic, publicist, and interviewer. But my writing experience includesj journalism, copywriting, and tech writing.

I’ve written about arts and culture, activism, entrepreneurship, science and technology, green issues, religion, community events, religion, health and wellness, fashion, crafting, and education.

I’ve also worked as an editor-in-chief, contributing editor, researcher, and marketer.

Beyond the world of words I have managed employees, taught and tutored both adults and children, and worked in customer service/retail.

I have advised and counseled adults with mental health issues. I also design jewelry and fashion accessories.

I am open to working for either for profit and non-profit organizations in the greater Milwaukee area.

Any advice? Please leave me a comment or email me at

Thank you in advance.

Writer’s Block

Happy New Year to all my readers. After a holiday break I feel refreshed and you’ll see some increased activity at the Book Self. I’m halfway through a book and hope to have a review up shortly.

I have a long list of books to read and review. Authors from all over the world are contacting me about reading and reviewing their books. It’s such an honor.

2019 was an incredibly difficult year, and not just for me.  Let’s visualize 2020 to be a year of healing, kindness, compassion, sensitivity, giving, empathy, peace, creativity, healing and courage. Together we are strong. Goodness in action is greater than evil.