SDFOB: LGBTQ Fiction and Nonfiction

On August 25th, I attended the San Diego Festival of Books. It was my first ever Book Festival and I loved it! My favorite part, unexpectedly, was getting the chance to learn about so many local authors! So often in the book blog/bookstagram scene we hear about big presses and bestsellers, but it was great to hear about smaller indie authors and publishing houses, but also bestsellers living in our very own city! I loved that my first book festival was in a small city, and I definitely plan to attend again next year.

Over the coming days I’ll share a bit about each of the three seminars I attended – each were so unique!

Next Up – LGBTQ in Fiction and Nonfiction

LGBTQ literature has been such a growing genre over the past few years. It was celebrated in full this year in the book community — if you’re interested, NYC Book Girl did a great Pride Reads list.

Personally, I’ve been luke warm on the topic recently – not for any change of heart on the topic itself, but I’ve found that the “pride reads” I’ve been reading recently have been extremely over sexualized. I’m not a romance reader of any orientation (meaning I don’t really enjoy romance scenes of straight couples), but I do love a good rom-com story regardless of sexual orientation. My issue comes from the fact that I often find writers feel the need to create romance scenes in LGBTQ books more so than they would for straight couples. I find that weird and unnecessary. My main recent examples of this are Ohio and The Immortalists.

Anyway, all this is to say that I was really looking forward to an LGBTQ panel to discuss LBGTQ literature and maybe get an answer to my question of am I unconsicously being biased or is it weird that many LGBTQ books have very intense sex scenes. (If you have feelings on this please share in the comments!)

Ultimately, I didn’t get my question answered, nor was there really any stimulating conversation on the topic, but the two books presented were interesting and contained some food for thought. One small pet peeve (and maybe this is too intrusive of me) but I had hoped for a little more personal information from the authors on this very personal topic – were they gay? Either way, did that impact the way they approached their writing? What do they think of other pride books out there in the world? I just had so many questions, and expected a bit more from this panel.

Book 1: Harvey Milk – His Lives and Death by Lillian Faderman

Lillian was a joy to hear speak – she’s most well known for her book The Gay Revolution and has written twelve books, this being her latest.

In talking about this book, Lillian focused on the impact of Harvey Milk. His story (being the first out gay man elected to public office and soon thereafter being assassinated) is so well known, so, when she was approached about writing the book, she questioned whether there was anything new to add to the story. She ultimately decided that yes, there is more to be added, because so much of his impact has been felt between the publishing of previous biographies and now.

The personal San Diego tie in this seminar was that the first out lesbian elected official in San Diego was in the audience. Since that time, there has always been at least one out LGBTQ person elected to an office in San Diego and today there are many. It was interesting and personal to see these stories in real life, that may not have been possibly without the advancement of LGBTQ rights fought for by Harvey Milk.

One other interesting thing mentioned was that Lillian admitted that at first she fell in love with her subject. But as she got in to her writing process, she realized that she needed to write all of Harvey Milk, “warts” and all, to use her words.

If you’re looking for a well rounded biography of Harvey Milk – his best assets, worse qualities, and a thorough study of his impacts on today – I would definitely suggest you look in to this one!

Book 2: Scissors, Paper, Stone by Martha K. Davis

The next speaker, Martha, had a bit of a harder time getting her book through publication. She wrote this novel back in 1998 – that’s twenty years ago! At the time the LGBTQ movement wasn’t as active as it is now, nor was it as popular in mass market literature, so the book didn’t sell. She abandoned the book enough to write another novel, but never really let it go.

Martha stated that she didn’t want to go to a “lesbian” publishing house, and so she didn’t, but she also didn’t have much luck at the more main stream publishing houses. Ultimately, she got this book published by submitting it to a queer lit award from Red Hen Press and winning the contest! It took a lot of work, but this piece is finally published and Martha said, somewhat abashed, that she’s happy with it!

As a reader of diverse literature, I was surprised this book didn’t receive more attention – although I haven’t read it, so I can’t make any sweeping generalizations. The story is about a couple who adopt a Korean-American baby, and raise her lovingly through adulthood. The plot twist arises when the child grows up to discover that she is gay and wonders what this will mean for her. One of the artistic qualities that Martha displayed in the excerpt she read was about how being Korean-American is a difference that is celebrated and that maybe if being a lesbian were as openly accepted as being Korean-American, she wouldn’t feel so lonely.

I thought that was a great sentiment to frame a book around and I hope I get a chance to read this book in the future.

Final  Thoughts

Both of the authors had thoughts on lesbian publishing houses, and also LGBTQ/Women’s bookstores. They said that in terms of advancing LGBTQ writing, it’s harmful that women’s bookstores are disapearing across the US. As a borderline millenial, I had to admit I had never heard of a Women’s Bookstore and was kind of surprised at there being such a thing (and also a nostalgia for them). I think the key is to promote diverse books like these and get them in to the common bookstores that so many people are visiting!

Do you like the sound of these books? Do you often read LGBTQ literature?


SDFOB: Military Nonfiction

On August 25th, I attended the San Diego Festival of Books. It was my first ever Book Festival and I loved it! My favorite part, unexpectedly, was getting the chance to learn about so many local authors! So often in the book blog/bookstagram scene we hear about big presses and bestsellers, but it was great to hear about smaller indie authors and publishing houses, but also bestsellers living in our very own city! I loved that my first book festival was in a small city, and I definitely plan to attend again next year.

There were so many seminars I wanted to attend, but I ended up choosing three as to not max myself out. I was also aware of the fact that this was a weekend and I never want book blogging to feel like a job or an obligation, so I wanted to make sure I had fun the whole time. I definitely did and I wanted to share a little bit of information on the seminars with you!

Over the coming days I’ll share a bit about each of the three seminars I attended – each were so unique!

First up — Military Non Fiction

I’ve been really interested in Military nonfiction in the past year. It’s partially a result of living in San Diego, so close to a huge navy and marines base, but also just through reading different stories of different time periods. I’ve found that war has been such a backdrop for our life in the last century, and I’m so curious to learn more about it.

The books shared in this seminar were both remarkable — I ended up not buying them at the festival because this was the first lecture we attended and I felt like I was just being trigger happy, but then bought them both online because this seminar was so good.

BOOK 1: Saigon Kids by Les Arbuckle

You may know this story from another medium — the movie Good Morning, Vietnam? I’m not a movie buff, but everyone I’ve talked to since has told me they’ve seen the movie and that it does indeed feature a radio station in Saigon, Vietnam. The story here is that Les Arbuckle’s father was the guy who set up the Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam. (If you’ve seen the movie, Les let us in on the secret that the way Robin Williams said “Good Morning, Vietnam” was pretty different from how his dad said it, but both were equally entertaining!)

Les was 13 when his family moved in Saigon in 1963. There wasn’t a military base, but there was a large military presence. Les tells the story of his life there – hailing a cab for no money at all, attending the American Community School, and getting in to more trouble than his parents would ever like to hear about! (unfortunately they passed away quite young, so they weren’t around for the publishing of this book.)

It was forty years after his time in Saigon, that Les decided to write this books, but as he explained, he wrote from memory — to start he wrote down everything he remembered in no order at all, just let the memories flow. And then he put them in chronological order, and as he worked through that, other memories came to the surface. At first, Les wanted to write a screenplay, but he joked, he didn’t know how to write a screenplay! He didn’t know much about writing books either, but he made do. 🙂

I’m really excited to read Les’s book. I think it will be filled with humor, adventure, and also perspective.

BOOK 2: No Forgotten Fronts by Lisa Shapiro

This story is truly so unique and so San Diego. It is a compilation (with some helpful commentary) of letters that students who attended SDSU, and went on to fight in World War II, sent to a professor who asked them to keep in touch.

Beyond asking the students to keep in touch, Dr. Post, sent out a monthly newsletter. We all know military personel rarely stay in one place, but the miltary postal service is allegedly very good at forwarding mail, and Dr. Post was able to get in contact with her students very regularly and share news and updates!

Lisa read a few sections of her book, and described a few more, and each time she spoke, I had chills at the messages in her story and the realness that they projected. She told one story about the men who were sent to D-Day who didn’t know they were being sent there, and one student wrote “tough men had tears in their eyes” at seeing the statue at Normandy Beach, and as Lisa said, “they knew what they were fighting for.” Man, it still gets me. Just the courage and tenacity of these men who went willingly to war on the front lines.

What made this experience extra special was when the woman in front of me stood up and said, she wasn’t finished reading the book, but she had been friends with one of the students writing the letters for FORTY years. It meant the world to her to have this book published. As soon as Lisa had finished reacting and letting the reader know how much that meant to her, the woman across the aisle stood up and said that one of the students was her dad. She smiled while saying THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS BOOK and that she had purchased ten copies. I loved experiencing this moment and it definitely pushed me over the edge to buying this book.

Final Thoughts

One point made during the panel to really differentiate between the two books was that “letters are written in the moment” versus a memoir that has more time to reflect. While this was said to increase the value of No Forgotten Fronts, I think it has equal value for Saigon Kids. A memoir of the early days of the American occupation of Vietnam with forty years of perspective is definitely something I’m here for!

Next Week – In Portugal!

First of all, I’m sorry my blog content has been a little sporadic recently. I’ve been feeling extremely stressed and writing book reviews, or finding time to write book reviews, has not been the easiest thing to do. But in the interest of keeping in touch, I thought I’d let you know that next week I’ll be writing to you from Portugal! (Side note: I have some posts planned, so I will be posting!) Aside from a very quick trip to Iceland and England in 2016, I haven’t been to Europe since I was 15! That’s almost 15 years ago! I planned an itinerary I’m excited about, so I wanted to share what I’ll be doing in Portugal.

Some background: The reason for this trip is that I am presenting at a conference in Lisbon — but the rest of the conference isn’t totally up my alley, so I’ll only be attending some parts of it outside of my presentation. Because I’m only in Portugal for a short time, I’m planning to stay just in and around Lisbon. Based on my research, there will be plenty to do!


There are three main neighborhoods in Lisbon that I definitely plan to check out: Barrio Alto, Alfama, and Belem.

Barrio Alto
Photo Credit

Barrio Alto is known for it’s night life but is also full of wonderful cafes. I’m planning to take the bus down to Barrio Alto in the morning for some café time at Hello Kristof, The Mill, or Pharmacia. If I have time in the evening I’m definitely planning to hit up Park Bar or Noobai! The views and décor look to die for.

Photo Credit

Alfama is the touristy/historic neighborhood – although hey, I’m a tourist so I’m going to check it out. Two things high on my list: Ginja de Alfama and Clube de Alfama. The first Ginja – is a local Portuguese liquer. I’m very interested in trying this! The second, Clube de Amalfa is known for live music to celebrate Fado, which is the historic music culture in Lisbon. Aside from those two spots, I plan to wander the streets, check out the National Tile Museum, the Time Out Market, and grab a glass of wine at the Riberia Das Naus!


Belem is probably the neighborhood I’m most looking forward to! This seems to be a major culture center for Lisbon. The Belem Tower is one of the biggest tourist attractions, and while I don’t plan to go inside, I am definitely looking forward to seeing it from the outside! Besides that there’s the Berardo Collection, the LX Factor, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and the MAAT (museum of architecture and technology!) For food, I’m most excited to visit Darwin’s Café. And of course – I can’t miss Pasteis de Belem.


I booked a few excursions/tours that I’m excited about! It’s a little bit of a splurge but I’m traveling alone and not a fan of driving alone in a foreign country so this seemed like a good idea!

paddle boarding
Photo Credit

First up: a paddle boarding tour! This came highly recommended by a friend and will be a great way to get out to the coast. After that I’m planning to relax on a beach for some of the day and then head back in to the city to explore some vistas and probably end the night with some wine in a park.

Photo Credit

And a trip to Lisbon would not be complete without a trip to Sintra and Cassais! I booked a tour with a company called We Hate Tourism. A friend of mine said this was one of the best parts of her recent trip to Lisbon!


Since this is a book blog… 🙂

I’m planning to take four books! It’s only 10 days, so this may be ambitious but I’ll be alone for most of it and have some good train/plane time.. plus solo meal time and hotel time! If I run out of books, I have some extras on my kindle.. but I don’t anticipate that happening. Here’s what I have packed:

  • The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
  • The Witch Elm by Tana French (Kindle)
  • A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper (Kindle)
  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer

In terms of bookish excursions — the oldest bookstore in the world is in Lisbon! It’s not in one of the areas listed above, but I’ll try to go at some point!

And then I’ll come home! Did I miss anything? Let me know!


New York, New York

Hey Bookfriends –

Last week I went back to New York for a few days. If you checked out my Book Lover’s Guide to New York City, you’ll know that I lived there for four years but moved away last June – I hadn’t been back since! It was so amazing to be a tourist in a city I already knew so well. I knew what subways to take and where things were and what areas to avoid. I know this isn’t a travel blog, but I wanted to include some of the highlights in photo form and also let you know that… I’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break this week! I have some great posts and reviews in mind, but absolutely zero energy to write them. I’ll be back after some R&R (and by that I mean working, cooking, gyming, studying for a licencing exam, prepping for an international trip, and reading) but for now — enjoy these photos of New York! (And if you have any questions, drop em in the comments below 🙂 )

Our General Itinerary


  • Coffee at Bluestone Lane UES
  • Walk across Reservoir/Central Park
  • Restaurant Week Lunch at Red Rooster in Harlem
  • Explored the 72nd Street Transverse in Central Park
  • Read books in Central Park 🙂
  • Frick Collection (Pay what you wish Wednesdays 2-6)
  • Took the 7 train to Hudson Yards (I worked on this development as an engineer in NY so was amazing to see!)
  • Walk down Highline from 34th Street to 26th Street
  • Drinks at the Frying Pan
  • Drinks at Blind Tiger
  • PIZZA at Joe’s Pizza


  • Coffee at Little Collins
  • ATTEMPTED Restaurant Week Lunch at the MET. ($25 entrance fee on top of the cost of lunch, so we bailed – this included entrance to the museum, but since we used to live 5 minutes away and have been to the Met so many times, we wanted to just eat at the restaurant without paying museum admission)
  • Take the bus down 5th Ave (along Central Park)
  • Restaurant Week Lunch at Rotisserie Georgette
  • Rode the Tram to Roosevelt Island
  • Explored the FDR Memorial
  • Took the ferry to North Williamsburg
  • Ate ice cream at Van Leeuwens
  • Went to Grimm Tasting Room
  • Walked to The Well Beer Garden
  • Pre-dinner drinks at Syndicated Bar Theatre Kitchen
  • PIZZA at Roberta’s


  • Restaurant Week Lunch at Park Avenue Summer
  • Rode the bus to the New York Public Library at Bryant Park
  • Hopped on the train out of New York!


It was a great itinerary for us – a great mix of revisiting favorites and doing new things. I also loved doing restaurant week each day, a really fun way to explore new spots! Let me know what your favorite thing to do in New York is! And I’ll be back to talk about books next week!! 🙂



A Book Lovers Guide to: NEW YORK CITY

In honor of my first trip back to New York in over a year, I wanted to send some New York love in to this corner of the internet. I lived in New York for four years and mostly loved it. I didn’t make a book blog until the very end of my time there, so I didn’t do too much exploring of the book scene, but … I did enough. 

Disclaimer: this route has never been tested and would be way too much for me to do in one day, but I’m going to attempt to make a route for you sprinkled with some of my favorite places.

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Stop 1: Book Culture on Columbus

We’re going to start in the Upper West Side, one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York. Spend a little time walking the streets, and dipping in to Central Park and you’ll soon see why. 🙂

Nearby Food: Back and better than ever after their 2017 fire – Jacob’s Pickles
Nearby Drink: George Keeley’s is a great beer bar. I love all the info the tv screens tell you about the freshness and flavor of the beer
Nearby Fun: The Museum of Natural History! And Central Park!
Nearby Subway Stop: B, C, 1

Stop 2: The Strand

Walk across Central Park via 86th street, say hi to the Reservoir for me, and then keep walking until you hit Lexington Ave. Hop on the 4/5 (or the 6 if you have some time) and ride the subway to Union Square. Welcome to The Strand – one of the most iconic bookstores around. Browse the $1 carts outside or head inside for more books and merch than you can imagine.

Nearby Food: I loved my sushi spot at Union Square called Sushi Chosi. Nothing fancy, but so delicious 🙂
Nearby Drink: Union Fare or Cibar for wine/cocktails, Headless Horseman for beer
Nearby Fun: I love shopping at Fish’s Eddy, which is right up Broadway. There are always farmers markets on in Union Square so keep an eye out for that! (if it’s there, you can’t miss it). And I’ve always wanted to play chess against one of the chess players in Union Square!
Nearby Subways: 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R, L (maybe..)

Stop 3: Three Lives and Co

This was my go to bookstore in New York since it was so close to where I lived. I love its cozy vibes and walking the streets of the West Village around it! From the Strand I’d probably walk. There aren’t any good subway routes to get you here!

Nearby Food: VAN LEWENS. Vegan (and non-vegan) ice cream. It is phenomenal
Nearby Drink: Just a few blocks away, in to the heart of the West Village is my favorite bar, Blind Tiger. Free cheese and bread on Wednesdays too! 🙂
Nearby Fun: My favorite card etc shop in New York is just a few blocks away! Definitely check out Pink Olive. Washinton Square Park is also nearby – take a stroll over there with your ice cream, especially in spring time and you’ll never want to leave New York.
Nearby Subway Stop: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E

Stops 4+5: McNalley Jacksons and Housingworks

Head back up to 14th street to catch the BDFM down to Broadway- Lafayette. You are now in the Lower East Side/SoHo. The interiors of these bookstores are pretty iconic – so make sure you’re ready to take in the decor with your book shopping!

Nearby Food: Rubirosa had amazing italian food! This is nearing NoLita so lots of good options here. Plus! McNalley Jackson’s has its very own cafe so you’ll never be hangry while book shopping.
Nearby Drink: Spring Lounge. Sister bar to Blind Tiger but a totally different vibe. I loved this bar too!
Nearby Fun: Just walking down Broadway in SoHo is so much fun. They have so many luxury stores so window shopping (or actual shopping) is so much fun here.
Nearby Subway Stop: B, D, F, M, R, W, 6

Stop 6: Books are Magic

And we saved the best for last! Books are Magic is one of the hottest bookstores in New York City. It was opened in 2017 by the author, Emma Straub and is now known for its amazing author events! It’s deep in to Brooklyn so you may as well just drive but once you get there it will be well worth the trek!

Nearby Food: I haven’t eaten in the area but I remember from my trip that I wanted to stop in SO many restaurants on the walk from the subway. This neighborhood is the cutest.
Nearby Drink: Other Half Brewing. I loved their hazy IPAs before they were cool 😉
Nearby Fun: This bookstore is all the fun you need. But its also not a bad walk down to Brooklyn Bridge Park with your new book!
Nearby Subway Stop: G. (…. good luck)

Congratulations! You made it! I hope you had a great day exploring NYC!

How I Find Good Books

I frequently get asked about how I find all the books I read and how I know what’s coming out soon. It’s honestly a surprisingly few number of sources, so here’s a quick roundup!


For Books Out Now: All The Books!

This is my absolute favorite and most reliable place for book recomendations. It comes out every Tuesday with books that are being released that day. One of the hosts changes each week, but Liberty Hardy is a consistent host, and her enthusiasm gets me every time. I’ve recently made some purchases from the show, and I’ve loved every one that she’s gushed over! My tips for listening to this podcast:

  1. Be Patient. I don’t find recommendations every week – some weeks none and some weeks I write down 3-4 recommendations!
  2. Listen with Goodreads open! I frequently look up books as they’re talking to add to my “to read” list on Goodreads – or even request from the library. If you listen away from your computer, not to worry they list all of their recommendations in order on their Show Notes on the website. If I miss the title but get hooked by the description, I usually look it up in the Show Notes
  3. Feel free to fast forward! If a book description has me hooked, I normally hit the + 30 seconds button a few times until its clear they’ve moved on. The hosts are great about not including spoilers but I’m super anti spoilers so I normally jump ahead!

Recent Finds: Ranger Games by Ben Blum, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne


For Books Coming Out Soon: NetGalley

Netgalley is such a great resource for finding books coming out soon. You are required to make an account to use the site, but it’s free and you can use it to interact with publishers as much or as little as you want. I use the site primarily in three ways:

  1. By Genre – I usually flip through the Recently Added lists for “Literary Fiction” and “History” every few weeks — but they have any genre you may be interested in!
  2. By Publisher – This is my favorite way to search since I do have a few publishers that produce reliably good books. I typically search for Riverhead Books, Viking Books, Crown Publishing and a few more. This way does prevent me from seeing books from indie publishers, but thats what #3 is for..
  3. Newsletters and Emails – Netgalley does a great job at recommending books via email without being too overbearing. Once a week I get an email with either a preview of an upcoming month or books coming out soon in one of my “preferred” genres. These are super helpful for me to find books from smaller presses that I may not otherwise hear about!

Recent Finds: Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson, Boomtown by Sam Anderson, The Distance Home by Paula Saunders


For Backlist Titles: FRIENDS!

Friends are the best for borrowing and recommending books. I have a few friends I text regularly about what they’re reading and love getting recommendations from them. I made it a goal in 2017 to read more titles recommended by friends and have not been let down! One of my best friends in San Diego and I have been doing bookswaps recently and I’ve been enjoying those too.

Recent Finds: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh, Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wollitzer, Beartown by Fredrik Backman


For Extra Credibility: Blogs, Book of the Month, and Newspaper Reviews

I also have to give credit where credit is due to my fellow book bloggers and bookstagrammers. The visibility of certain titles does a lot to give me confidence in picking the book up – and I particularly love to follow accounts who post thoughtful reviews. A few of my favorites are Simone and her Books, Hannah and her Books, and NYC Book Girl. In addition to blogs, I like to read book reviews in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal – their book reviewers cover some amazing books with great insights.

And finally – Book of the Month. I’m almost done with the second 12-month subscription of Book of the Month, which means I’ve received 23 books from them! While they used to feature more literary fiction than they do now, I’ve still been loving my books from them.

Recent Finds: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


And that’s it! Let me know where you like to find good books ❤


August: What I’m Reading

After a big book haul month, August for me is going to be all about reading what I own! My top priority: e-books. I am so grateful for the galleys I’ve received from publishers, but frequently if they are only able to give me an e-book, I don’t read it. I just don’t enjoy reading on my kindle as much and I can’t get as much blog/instagram content because kindle photos are “less attractive”. My plan for August is to alternate between kindle books and hard copies to make some progress on my ever increasing TBR!


Here are the books!

While my goodreads TBR is now towering around 20 books, here are six I’d love to read this month!

The Witch Elm by Tana French
Pub Date: October 9, 2018
Publisher: Viking Books
Description: I’ve long enjoyed the Dublin Murder Series from Tana French, but this book will be her first standalone book!

Ohio by Stephen Markley
Pub Date: August 21, 2018
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Description: A murder mystery with social commentary on today’s America. Very excited to see how this complex plot comes to life.

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles by Karen Piper
Pub Date: August 14, 2018
Publisher: Viking
Description: I’ve heard that this one fits more in to memoir than history, but I’m excited to add this to my collection of stories set in the American West (a new focus interest of mine!)

Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford
Pub Date: July 31, 2018
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Description: A novel around a historical court case in the Old South. I’m getting To Kill a Mockingbird meets The Underground Railroad vibes from the description, but excited to see how this one lives up!

The Distance Home by Paula Sanders
Pub Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Random House
Description: Another novel about life in the American West, specifically 1960s South Dakota – I’m really upping my knowledge on the region this year 😉

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
Pub Date: February 13, 2018
Publisher: Berkeley Pub
Description: This book was actually gifted to me by the author, who’s been following me on instagram for a while now! I was so honored to have her reach out and the cherry on top was that this book has totally been on my radar since its pub date back in February!

The Book Lovers Guide to San Diego

I’ve been surprised recently at how frequently I’ve seen people on my instagram and blog feed making trips to San Diego! I’ve been here for a year or so now and started to explore the bookstore scene. I wanted to share that with you, but while I’m at it, I thought I’d just give you all of my favorite places — so here we are THE BOOK LOVERS GUIDE TO SAN DIEGO!




First things first – you want to check out the local bookstore scene. You are in luck! We have plenty- including new, used, Amazon Books, and a common stop on many authors’ book tours!

The Book Catapult

Neighborhood: South Park
Description: A light and airy neighborhood bookstore! Amazing new releases and very friendly staff.
Special Events: Every third Sunday of the month is Coffee with the Catapult and any book mentioned is 20% off!

Bay Books Coronado

Neighborhood: Coronado
Description: This independent bookstore has been open for 25 years! This bookshop has more of a traditional dark oak feel – not dissimilar to the architecture of its neighboring Hotel Del.


Neighborhood: La Jolla
Description: Probably the most infamous of all the San Diego bookstores, this bookstore is a common favorite of locals as well as authors on tour!
Special Events: Check out their events calendar because there is always a good event on – this summer there have been so many amazing authors including David Sedaris, Fredrik Backman, Kimmery Martin, and Gail Honeyman!

Amazon Books

Neighborhood: UTC (for non San Diegans that means – in the mall very close to La Jolla)
Description: I haven’t been here, but I was so excited to hear to San Diego had an Amazon books! The look and feel of a bookstore, with the advantage of discounted books!

Verbatim Books

Neighborhood: North Park
Description: I’m not historically a used book person but this store is wonderfully curated with a huge selection. Plus, they buy books for a good price.


Once you’ve purchased your book, you’re probably on the hunt for a place to enjoy it, right? I bring you my favorite coffee shops. (Note there are more great places, but I wanted to keep this list reasonable!)

Holsem Coffee

Neighborhood: North Park
Description: Definitely my favorite coffee shop in San Diego! The decor is adorable and the drinks are so creative without just being sweet.
What to Get: Any of their signature creations! My personal favorites are the Banana Bread Cold Brew and the Mint Matcha Latte

Heartwork Coffee Bar

Neighborhood: Mission Hills
Description: A small independent coffee shop in the adorable Mission Hills neighborhood.
What to Get: Their chai tea latte (and dirty chai tea lattes) are made with a housemade mix, which is delightful. I also love their nostrum sodas made with syrup from a local company. Pineapple tumeric ginger is my flavor of choice!

Communal Coffee

Neighborhood: North Park and South Park
Description: An open air patio with excellent coffee, decor, neighborhood feel and bonus: a flower store.
What to Get: I’ve only been to the South Park location where the menu is limited but delicious, but the North Park location is known for their sweet and savory toast options!

Achilles Coffee Roasters

Neighborhood: Downtown
Description: A high end outdoor coffee outpost offering craft coffee, as well as food for breakfast and lunch.
What to Get: I’m not a pour-over person (mostly due to lack of experience), but I love their cold brew creations. My favorite is the “dealers choice,” which comes with cold brew, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon.


My favorite kind of shops are kind of eclectic giftshop places. Candles, homewares, fun books, plants, etc – and luckily there are several of these in the San Diego area!


Neighborhood: North Park
Highlight: So many plants – including an area to arrange your own succulents, constantly changing selection and arrangement, great card selection!

Seaside Papery

Neighborhood: Coronado
Highlight: Great prints and California/National Park themed gifts! Lots of stationary too!

Gold Leaf

Neighborhood: South Park
Highlight: Great kids section, amazing smelling candles, so much decor inspiration!

Grafitti Beach

Neighborhood: South Park
Highlight: Laid back and natural vibes – bohemian clothing and a new natural beauty line

Casual/Al Fresco Dining

And finally – no trip to San Diego would be complete without good food, good beer, and abundant sunshine. Here are some of my favorite spots!

Crack Shack

Neighborhood: Little Italy
Description: Fried chicken sandwiches and local craft beer in a beer garden setting. What more could you ask for?
What to Get: The firecracker sandwich is amazing if you like the heat!

Panama 66

Neighborhood: Little Italy
Description: Modern american fare and local craft beer in a beer garden setting. Bonus: a fenced in grass area which is great if you have kids who want to run, or adults looking to drink good beer on the grass.
What to Get: Honestly, it’s all amazing! I’ve enjoyed several of their soups and sandwiches so far.

Mitch’s Seafood

Neighborhood: Point Loma
Description: Fresh seafood options in the heart of the marina village! + 32 oz local craft beer while sitting on a dock over the water, watching fishing boats come in and leave and the sea lions that tend to travel with them.
What to Get: The swordfish sandwich is my absolute favorite thing on the menu. It’s fresh and local too! I don’t recommend the tacos or the octopus.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Neighborhood: Ocean Beach
Description: Delicious pizza at one of San Diego’s favorite breweries. Warning: NOT NEW YORK PIZZA.
What to Get: I have strong feelings on this. Half Lahaina (no canadian bacon, add bacon), Half Monterrey. Also the wings are good and super cheap on Wednesdays.


Neighborhood: Del Mar
Description: A modern and airy brewery with firepits on each table and a focus on good food!
What to Get: Highly recomend the Naan Mi. And the charred broccoli.

South Park Brewing

Neighborhood: South Park
Description: A local favorite for us! Great rotating beer list of consistently good beer. Board games, sunlight, and a taco stand.
What to Get: IDK. They used to have the best food and recently got rid of their kitchen and I’m still upset. I’ve heard the taco restaurant is good and you can still order food from the bar next door, so idk go for the beer, games, and sunlight and eat there if you want or change to any of the great neighboring restaurants after you’ve had a couple brewskis!


So there you have it! Let me know if you have any spots I should check out or if you’re planning a trip to San Diego soon ❤


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


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.



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!

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 ❤