Book Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

My summer reading list this year has included some seriously hard hitting books. I wanted to lighten things up, so this week I’m bringing you three great beach reads. So pack your bags with these selections, and get ready to be drawn in to the drama!


Author: Ruth Ware
Published: May 29, 2018
Genre: Mystery
FLW Rating: 3.5/5

If you have come here looking for a repeat of the action of The Woman in Cabin 10,  I need to let you know you have come to the wrong place. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is fundamentally different from the rest of Ware’s mysteries, in that the main character in this book goes looking for trouble. And not only that, but the tone of this book is different too. I didn’t feel the same kind of raw fear and suspense that I felt in her first two, but I found this to be a truly unique and almost “cozy” mystery.

The protagonist of this book, Hal is a tarot card reader in London, who runs in to financial trouble. With no known living relatives and no way to increase profitability of her business, she feels like she doesn’t have any way to get herself out of that hole. As the situation starts to look more and more bleak, Hal receives a letter letting her know that her grandmother (who she didn’t know was still alive) had passed away and she was named in the will. Seeing this as a potential solution to her financial woes, Hal decides to go to the reading of the will and accept what she is to be given. However, when she gets there she has to introduce herself to the family and while getting herself caught in a tangle of lies, she also discovers a lot about this family that they did not necessarily want to come out.

I really enjoyed seeing this side of Ware’s imagination and hearing a bit of a different story from her. While a little on the long side, this book kept me engaged, entertained, and busy postulating my hypothesis.

My biggest qualm for this book is really a need to readjust Ware’s genre in my head.

After reading her previous works, I put her squarely in the “thriller” category, but I would have to classify this one more as a cozy mystery than a suspense, which is what I have come to know Ware for. The plot was never fear inducing or exciting, but always quietly convoluted. I think the expectation of suspense led me to feel let down at anything else, including this moody mystery that developed in its place. That being said, I definitely think this would make a great book to read on the beach if you’re looking for a unique and interesting mystery.

Have you read this? Let me know what you thought!

 

Book Review: The Favorite Sister

My summer reading list this year has included some seriously hard hitting books. I wanted to lighten things up, so this week I’m bringing you three great beach reads. So pack your bags with these selections, and get ready to be drawn in to the drama!


Author: Jessica Knoll
Published: May 15, 2018
Genre: Mystery
FLW Rating: 4/5

Confession: I love the Bachelor franchise, including the spin-off show Unreal. So when my book club was deciding on a fun summer read and I heard the description for this one, I was ready to say yes – except for one thing: the opinions I’d seen on bookstagram for this book were atrocious. I’d like to set the record straight and use this as an example that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet (but always believe my posts 😉 ). I totally understand why people didn’t like it in the beginning (we’ll get to that), but this book was so worth sticking it out and actually made for a great read and a great book club discussion!

The Favorite Sister is about a group of women who make up the cast of a TV show called Goaldiggers (get it, they go after goals as strong independent women who don’t need men in their lives). The book opens at present day where you find out that one of the women from the cast has died – and there is a mystery surrounding the circumstances of her death. The book then jumps back a few seasons and tells the story from the perspective of three of the women, who explain events in their perspective and slowly reveal the whole truth. This book is full of drama, twists, turns, and surprises — which makes is fun to read and fun to discuss!

I just want to say out of the gates that I understand why people didn’t like it. Most of the negative reviews I read stated that they strongly disliked it early on, and decided to stop reading it. I hear you, I’m definitely a proponent putting down a book if you’re not enjoying it, but in this case I would encourage you to continue. The drama at the outset of the book is stupid. It feels below the reader – like something you just don’t need in your life and a weird premise for a book. The women are treating each other poorly and overall the vibe just isn’t great. But YOU GUYS, this is all setting you up for the first twist. I think it’s risky for an author to start a book like this – putting the worst part first in such a long book can clearly rub people the wrong way.

From that point on, I truly enjoyed this book. I listened to it on audiobook and enjoyed the narration from each of the different perspectives. There were some great twists and turns and the plot kept me engaged until the very last second!

The rocky start makes it a 4/5 for me, but I definitely want to encourage you to read this book! And BONUS it’s been picked up for a TV series. No word yet on when or where but the producer of Wild and Big Little Lies has purchased the rights!

Mid Year Favorites: Published in 2018

It has been such a great reading year for me! So far (well by the end of June) I’ve read 30 books! That was my entire Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the year because I wanted to let myself read any book I wanted, regardless of how long it would take me to get through, without worrying about a reading goal! Well, I have been reading books of all lengths and still flying through them! I thought I’d give you a recap of some of my favorites from this year. Yesterday I shared three favorites that were published in 2017 and today I’m sharing my three favorites of 2018 (so far)!


Published in 2018

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An American Marriage – An American Marriage blew me away. I hadn’t read a book more heartbreaking since All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, which is still one of my favorites to this day. I absolutely loved it through its unique structure and my conflicted heart. (Pub Date: February 2018)

Goodreads Summary: Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

 

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The Great Alone – This book was unbelieveably good – the characters were so well developed and the pace moved. I read all 400+ pages of his novel over the course of one weekend and considered it a weekend well spent! (Pub Date: February 2018)

Goodreads Summary: Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

 

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Us Against You – Another absolute winner from Fredrik Backman. This was the perfect sequel to Beartown and overall a great book. It had tremendous characters and amazing heart and totally punched me in the gut while leaving me with a sense of hope. (Pub Date: June 2018)

Goodreads Summary: After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

I’m looking forward to the rest of 2018! My reading will have to take a backseat for the next few months while I study for my engineering licensing exam, but I have so many highly anticipated titles that I know I’ll still get to enjoy!

 

Let me know your favorite book of 2018 (so far!) in the comments below!

Mid Year Favorites: Backlist

It has been such a great reading year for me! So far (well by the end of June) I’ve read 30 books! That was my entire Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the year because I wanted to let myself read any book I wanted, regardless of how long it would take me to get through, without worrying about a reading goal! Well, I have been reading books of all lengths and still flying through them! I thought I’d give you a recap of some of my favorites from this year. Today I’m sharing three that were published in 2017 and tomorrow I’ll share my three favorites of 2018!

Back List

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Pachinko – Pachinko was my first dip in to the world of Asian literary fiction. I’m embarassed to say this, but I really hadn’t read many books set in Asia before this year and this started me down a rabbit hole to say the least! I learned so much through this beautifully written book and would recommend it to literally anyone. (Pub date: Feb 2017)

Summary from Goodreads: Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

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Beartown – I’m so ashamed of how long it took me to pick up Beartown. After A Man Called Ove, I’ve been claiming Fredrik Backman as a favorite author without picking up any of this other books. I’m so glad I picked this up because it is beautifully written and incredibly moving. An absolute must read! (Pub Date: April 2017)

Goodreads Summary: People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

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The Leavers – As I wrote in my Instagram post (linked here), I was legitimately sad to return this book to the library. It took me a long time to read because I found it to be pretty heavy (and also I lost it in my suitcase for a couple weeks.), but ultimately I felt such a bond with it before I returned it to the library. I ended up buying a copy of this book because I just need it in my life. Also note: this was part of my Asian literary fiction rabbit hole. (Pub Date: May 2017)

Goodreads Summary: One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

 

Part 2 – Books Published in 2018 will be posted here TOMORROW

Book Review: The Great Believers

Author: Rebecca Makkai
Published: June 19, 2018
Genre: LGBTQ Fiction
FLW Rating: 4/5
amazon link

The Great Believers has all the makings of an extremely compelling work of fiction – centered on the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, a missing person, a cult, a trip to Paris, love, betrayal– the list goes on. As soon as I read the description, I knew I needed to read it, and as far as the plot goes, it did not dissapoint! It was readable and interesting, andI looked forward to every spare moment when I could pick it up again. What it missed for me was the strong emotional connection to the characters, that connection that would leave me punched in the gut at the end of this book. With all the components listed above, I expected this book to be hard hitting, and while it was very entertaining and enjoyable, I didn’t feel as much raw emotion as I had been expecting.

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The Great Believers is told across two timeframes and two continents – one in 1980s Chicago, and the other in Paris 2015. The story opens in the 80s, at the memorial service for Fiona’s brother, Nico. He was the first in his circle of friends to pass away from AIDS and as can be expected, his death brings a lot of grief and also fear to his close friends. The story follows Yale, one of Nico’s close friends, as he continues with his job and his relationship through this tough time. When the story skips ahead to 2015, Fiona is flying to France to begin the search for her daughter, Claire, who she lost touch with when Claire joined a cult several years prior.

What I loved in this book was the unexpected art history plot line. Yale works for a university art gallery that is trying to gain prestige through donations of incredible pieces, and through that role, he gets himself in to a few compromising situations. I used to love the tv show White Collar, and this felt similar, although less criminal. But there were deals to be made, people to be deceived (or at least left in the dark) and this plotline really propelled the book along!

What didn’t totally work for me was the character development. Quite frankly, I never felt the emotional roller coaster with any of the characters, since I had a hard time feeling a strong connection to any of them. To me, the issue was that even after all I went through with these characters, I didn’t feel like I had gotten to know them. I had more gotten to know their fears and insecurities without really knowing them.

I would recommend this book to someone who has an interest in the AIDS crisis in Chicago, or just looking for an entertaining and compelling work of fiction! I don’t anticipate the characters will stay with me for a long time, but I enjoyed reading this book and will definitely read another book by Makkai in the future!

[Thank you to Viking Books for supplying me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.]

Should you read Beartown?

SPECIAL NOTE: Beartown and Us Against You made such a big impression on me that I’m dedicating a week to them. Check out the other posts here:


Clearly reading Us Against you has thrown this blog for a loop! I’ve been passionately writing about Beartown, Us Against You, and Fredrik Backman himself for the past week. Nonetheless, I’ve found myself struggling to recommend this book to people around me. I’m not sure if they would enjoy the writing style, or if they would enjoy the heartwrenching nature of the story. Maybe they don’t want to read about domestic violence and feel sad and vulnerable — but at the same time maybe they SHOULD.

So to answer my own question, the short answer is – YES. But it’s more complicated than that.

Ready for the long answer?

To address the writing style that I brought up earlier — Backman said that many of his editors told him “you’re not supposed to write exactly what people are thinking.” At first, I’ll admit that the style didn’t work for me, but as the book went on, it made every emotion resonate so much stronger. I was feeling feelings while reading them on the page and the combination was powerful. Recently, I’ve seen so many Instagram reviews saying “how did Backman write exactly what I was thinking?” The people seem to like it!

But more to the meat of the issue — is the content for everyone?

When I met Fredrik Backman, I asked him if he had a favorite book – kind of expecting him to say he couldn’t choose – but he said the Beartown series was the book he was most proud of because so many people told him not to write it.

His editors told him that his audience knew what he wrote — heartwarming stories about curmudgeons — and this this would be way too out there for them. They also told him there would hate mail from the group of people he was criticizing in this book. His response was that maybe his audience should be exposed to these truths.

Backman illustrated the point by saying “Look at me. I’m white, I’m a male, and I’m a pretty big dude. I look like I could play hockey. I look like the group of people I’m criticizing and that’s the only reason I could publish this book. I could have published this book under a female pseudonym and I would have received death threats.” It was so moving to realize how right he was. (And to be clear, he has received hate mail, but no death threats to date)

Aside from the commentary on sports culture and rape, there is an underlying plotline about a gay man and how his community deals with his coming out. Backman talked about this plot line with so much love and during the signing, the man in front of me, who was gay, told Backman that he hadn’t read these books yet, but hearing him talk about them was so important to him. You could feel the sincerity in his words and the impact it had on Backman himself to hear this feedback. It was a really special moment and while my heterosexuality is never something that is attacked, I am also glad this book exists.

I think the perfect way to summarize all these feelings is actually an instagram caption that I read on my friend Molly’s page. She sums it up so well and I whole heartedly agree.

“It leaves me wondering if the obligation to write and read stories that bring (necessary) attention to the epidemic of hate and violence against anyone who doesn’t fit into the mold of the white patriarchy will ever go away. And it makes me sad that the answer to that feels, right now, like a resounding ‘no.'” – @readmollyread

So please PLEASE please read this book ❤

Meeting Fredrik Backman

SPECIAL NOTE: Beartown and Us Against You made such a big impression on me that I’m dedicating a week to them. Check out the other posts here:


I attended my very first author event last weekend (I’ll admit that I have seen David Sedaris live in the past, but I consider that to be more of a show than an author event.) Meeting Backman was an absolute joy. I loved the way he spoke and how authentically himself he was – it lets you know that the amazing voice that you hear in his books is him. Nothing about him was “put on” and although I know speaking in front of large groups of people is his absolute worst nightmare, I am beyond thankful that he does it for us – his readers. Hearing him speak for an hour was incredible and I wanted to highlight some of his thoughts for you.

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Where does he start a book?

The common places, of course, are the story or the characters. Backman’s answer to this was, both but really “the feeling he wants you to leave with as you’re closing the book”. For Beartown and Us Against You the feelings were: Punched in the gut, sad, scared, but also full of hope. He also said he wants you to close the book and think to yourself “I need to talk to someone about this.” I cannot express how strongly I felt each of those emotions. His writing is good.

How does he feel about sports?

This may come as a surprise to some, as it did to me, but Backman actually loves sports. Growing up he played “everything. Except hockey.” What he wanted to do in the Beartown trilogy was many-fold but I want to highlight two in particular.

1 – He wanted to write a book to highlight how important sports are. His wife and his father, he mentioned in particular, don’t enjoy sports and he wanted to write a book to show his wife how important sports are.

2 – He wanted to tackle the issue of damaging sports culture. The way he talked about it was so incredible. He started to describe how the ideal hockey player is tough, and violent, and wins, and doesn’t take no for an answer, and goes out there to fight every day, etc etc. And then he slowly transitioned to “what happens when a girl says no to him? Did we ever have a conversation with him about that? At 17 years old.” The way he ended with “at 17 year old” gave me chills the way his most powerful passages in the book did. It was at that moment that I realized edited or not, this man is the real deal. It also let me know that he doesn’t hate Kevin (from Beartown). It gave me the impression that instead of viewing Kevin as inherently evil, he genuinely felt that sports’ culture had failed him. “Had we ever had a conversation with him about that?” Wow.

Humor

As we all know and love about Backman’s books, particularly the early ones, he uses humor to offset sadness. I particularly loved this in his first book, A Man Called Ove, where every sad moment was brought back to being humorous relatively quickly. While I didn’t notice it as much in Beartown or Us Against You, this was the opening topic of the discussion last weekend. Backman said that as an awkward kid, humor was a way in. “You like people who make you laugh. That’s just normal social behavior.”

But Backman pointed out that it can also be a weapon, and that joking in the locker room as middle school boys and making homophobic jokes is “just a joke” to the people making them, but is destroying the person who’s affected by it.

Also on the topic of humor – Ove is apparently the most common middle aged man’s name in Sweden. It would be like calling the book “A Man Called Mike” in America. Apparently Backman thought it was a funny joke that didn’t translate in to any other language.

Self Doubt

This was a total curveball in the conversation – it was the final question of the night and a woman from the back row asked how he’s overcome any issues with self doubt. I naiively thought that it was a silly question, but then was humbled by Backman’s honestly.

At first he said “I haven’t” and the audience laughed.

Then Backman said he struggles with serious anxiety, and there’s nothing funny about not overcoming self doubt. After events like we had today – which were full of respect and openness – he feels the way he does the morning after a party when he drank too much. “Why did I say that? Did I have to …? I wish I hadn’t… .”

He shared that on his last book tour he called his wife crying in the middle of the night (Swedish time) because he had so much anxiety that he has panic attacks – so this time his wife is traveling with him.

One thing that I found truly remarkable and I have so much respect for him sharing is that he’s in therapy because he doesn’t know how to deal with success. His exact words were “I’m in therapy for not being a failure.” It was amazing to hear someone open up about the topic of mental health and answer the question with so much honesty.

 

There is so much more of this conversation I would LOVE to share with you, but neither you, nor I, have the time to share it all here! I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little more from Backman – I know I sure did!

Book Review: Us Against You

SPECIAL NOTE: Beartown and Us Against You made such a big impression on me that I’m dedicating a week to them. Check out the other posts here:


Author: Fredrik Backman
Published: June 5, 2018
Genre: Fiction
FLW Rating: 5/5

Sequels are hard – I imagine hard to write, sometimes hard to read, and honestly, as I sit here writing this, hard to judge. Us Against You is a phenomenal sequel and overall a phenomenal book – although, YES you do need to read Beartown first.

Going in to it, I wondered how the story would be set up – would it have the same pattern of an arch as Beartown? What will be the drama this time? I think the answer to that comes from the fact that while Beartown was a great standalone novel, it never should have been a standalone novel because the consequences of what happened in that book need to be allowed to play out in the public eye– so that we can see, hear, feel, experience, understand, and learn from what happened. Us Against You didn’t need its own drama or its own arch because the drama of Beartown wasn’t over. And for continuing that so strongly, Us Against You in a perfect sequel.

WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BEARTOWN THE FOLLOWING MAY BE A SPOILER! NOT 100% BUT SOME. READ THIS FIRST

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Us Against You is, as I mentioned, the sequel to Beartown – a book about a hockeytown in Sweden, in which the only thing going for it is its hockey team. Through that mentality, a group of hockey players is elevated above the rest of society, which creates unhealthy dynamics for young men – most about seventeen years old. When this unhealthy sports culture creates a conflict in the town, each member of the community is left to deal with how we got here and where we go. Some will leave town, some will hate those who leave town, and other will find comfort in new places. Backman writes with so much feeling and creates not only an extraordinary book, but an extraordinary sequel.

While reading this book, I was admittedly less enrapt by the plot than I was when I was reading Beartown itself, but I  think that’s because a) the shock had worn off and b) because it was hard to read about the characters I had grown to love go though such hardship.

One of the things I particularly liked about this book, was that Kevin, one of the negative characters from Beartown, wasn’t a focus in this part of the story. After what he did in the last book, he wasn’t a character I wanted to see again. I loved the focus on Benji – who kind of became the star of this show, and Vidar.

In general, what I love about Backman and his writing is that where there are glimpses of sadness, there are glimpses of hope too. He balances tragedy with humor, and gut wrenching pain with optimism, and I think that is why he can teach you such a lesson while also leaving you wanting more at the end of the day.

I highly recommend this book, because I highly highly recommend Beartown and Beartown would not be complete without this sequel. You may have heard that Beartown will be a trilogy – but for now it’s just two books. I have heard from friends who have met him in person in other cities (he didn’t talk about this when I met him in San Diego), that he’s not ready to start on the third book quite yet because these two took a lot out of him. UNDERSTANDABLE! I just read ’em and I have the most serious book hangover of the year. So, enjoy these two as we all wait patiently and full of hope for the third book in the trilogy!


I hope you’ll stick around this week for my other posts – I have so much I want to share with you from this experience!

July: What I’m Reading

In June I read SEVEN books! Horray! In order of ranking (reviews linked where available!)

Looking in to July, I have a basic TBR but still a little scattered. (I also just found out I have to study for an engineering licensing test this month so, if I read 3 books I’ll be happy!)

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New Heartbreaking Literary Fiction

If you’re new around here: heartbreaking literary fiction is my jam. I’m not totally sure why I do this to myself but I love a good book that gives me all the feels.

Top Priority: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. Sarah from Viking Books kindly sent me a copy of The Great Believers so I’m excited to read and review this book. It came highly recommended by Liberty Hardy of Book Riot who said readers of The Hearts Invisble Furies would love it. (Me!) The plot also includes the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and a cult, so ….  sign me up!

On My Radar: A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. This book has been all over the place recently with many of my favorite bloggers claiming it as their favorite of 2018 so far! I’m dying to read it but hesitating to pick it up until the exact right time!

Books from Favorite Authors

I’m trying to read more books by favorite authors! It’s a great way to explore older titles that I missed in earlier years.

Top Priority: The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.loved The Great Alone so much that I knew I had to add this to my TBR. My neighbor lent it to me recently and nothing bumps a book to the top of my TBR than having it lent to me by a friend!

On My Radar: Calypso by David Sedaris. David Sedaris is definitely a favorite author of mine. I recently sung his praise on my post about my Top 4 Favorite Authors, so I won’t repeat myself here, except to say that expectations are high for this collection!

ARC’s!

I’m so grateful to the publishers who sent me ARCs and I’m trying to get through each of them by their pub date. I currently have three that come out August 21st, so luckily I have some time!

Top Priority: Boomtown by Sam Anderson. This book sounds downright fantastic — who’s ever heard of a nonfiction about the history of a midwestern city being described as “a fantastical saga”. I cannot wait to learn more! Bonus points: This was listed as a top Galley for August in the NetGalley newsletter and the neighbor mentioned above is from OKC, so I can’t wait to discuss with them!

On My Radar: The Distance Home by Paula Saunders. Since moving out west last year, I’ve been trying to read more books set in the American West — and not just LA or San Francisco. This novel sounded amazing by description, and since recieving it from Random House, it’s been nominated for the Center for Fiction First Novel Award. I’m excited to read this one!

A Book from my Unread Shelf!

I’m waiting for Whitney to announce the challenge for July, but top contenders are Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, Playing Through the Whistle by S.L. Price, and What Happened by Hillary Clinton! If you want more on the Unread Shelf Challenge, check out my page for that here.

Book of the Month

I skipped this month! None of the choices stuck out to me except for Ghosted which I had already read! You can read my review here if you’re interested 🙂

Let me know what you’re excited to read next month!

Book Review: A Walk in the Woods

Author: Bill Bryson
Published: 1997
Genre: Travel Memoir
FLW Rating: 3/5

First things first: I’m currently participating in the Unread Shelf Project 2018, hosted by Whitney at @theunreadshelf. This post reflects on the June Challenge, but you can look back at all the posts here


The June Challenge for the Unread Shelf Project was to read a book about TRAVEL. I’m not usually a travel memoir person, but I do want to stick with this challenge and I did have one travel-y book on my unread shelf, so I  decided to read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

A Walk in the Woods is about Bryson’s experience on the Appalatian Trail. He sets off without much knowledge of the trail or of backpacking, but decides to give it a go. What follows is the comical story of his mishaps and misadventures, but also a well written history of the trail. Like his other books, this book is packed with classic Bryson wit and humor which makes for an entertaining journey!

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Two things went wrong for me in this book (both of which are unrelated to the book)…  The first is that the day I started listening to it (I used my Scribd app for this), I met someone who had hiked the trail. I told him I was listening to the book and he spoiled two major components for me. I didn’t think a book like this could be spoiled, but trust me it can.

The second is that it was deleted from the Scribd app while I was listening to it. No bueno. You may be thinking, “but this is the unread shelf project, so you own the book – no big deal!” But I ended up not finishing this book because of it. I just never felt like sitting down to finish it because switching mediums felt discouraing to me.

REVIEW TIME:

My favorite part about this book were the historical components. I noticed particularly during this book that any passage that was strictly factual, I LOVED. Bryson has an amazing way of telling a story, or creating a story out of facts. That section about the National Forest Service – amazing! Hearing about the town in Pennsylvania that’s had a fire burning under it for several decades now – fascinating! But hearing about the daily life of him walking on the Trail and finding food to eat – not for me. It just lacked originality or excitement, particularly compared to the more historical/political/scientific parts.

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Just a photo of my boyfriend enjoying the outdoors – taken by me, also enjoying the outdoors

Despite these laments, I have loved some Bryson books in the past, so I wanted to share those here. My absolute favorite is At Home – he tells the history of each room in the house dating back from when most people lived in single room halls. Even the development of a hallway was monumental! And book people will enjoy that there’s a chapter on libraries and he tells the story of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello. So good!

Others I’ve enjoyed are In a Sunburned Country, A Short History of Nearly Everything, and my boyfriend’s favorite (which I have not read) One Summer: America 1927.

Have you read this — or anything else by Bill Bryson? Let me know what you thought!