What I’m Reading January

If you thought I loved the feeling of a new month, every month, then you better believe I love a new year! I’ve already talked about resolutions so right off the bat, let’s get in to the books I want to read this month!

In sticking with my resolution of reading at least two books from my unread shelf, I’m planning to start the new year with two of my most recent purchases:

  1. Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop Stall
  2. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

After a disappointing December reading month, I need some freedom in my TBR and one way I discovered in the last month to do this is to read the last book you purchased and let yourself enjoy the excitement of a new book.

Hungover is a book I bought pretty impulsively because after reading the description, I couldn’t put it back on the shelf. It tells the story of one man’s quest around the world to cure the hangover. I love seeing different culture’s health remedies so I thought this sounded so interesting and as a bonus, I think it will make for great conversation starters when I’m done!

My Absolute Darling is a book I’ve had my eye on for years! The bookseller in my hometown advised me not to read it due to graphic content, but the bookseller in my new town of South Park, San Diego told me it’s one of his favorite books ever. Let the battle of the booksellers begin!

Beyond that I’m not sure what I’ll read — with the exception of an overload of David Sedaris! I’m currently listening to his latest collection, Calypso, on audio, and I also want to read his holiday collection, Holidays on Ice, that I received from my boyfriend for Christmas!

Here’s to an excellent year of reading — starting right now!

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December Reading Recap

December wasn’t a great reading month of me. To be honest, I didn’t really love any of the books I read this month, which is disappointing but all of them were on my very guilt inducing TBR, so I’m glad I read them. Even though it didn’t totally go to plan, I did get a lot of reading done! I’m proud to say I got through four books — three hard copies and one audiobook. Let’s see em…

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Sci Fi Thriller
Tone: Confusion, Chaos-inducing, Otherworldly
Structure: The narrator embodies eight personalities as he relives the same day eight times to solve the crime
Read if you like: Ready Player One, The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Circe by Madeline Miller
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Greek Mythology Retelling
Tone: Slow paced, spanning centuries
Structure: The story follows Circe throughout her life beginning from when she discovers her powers
Read if you like: Greek Mythology. Period. This book is for you if you like Greek Mythology and not for you if you don’t.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
Rating: 2/5
Genre: General Fiction/Book about books
Tone: Slow paced, grieving, literary
Structure: Written as something between a letter and a stream of consciousness from the narrator to a friend who committed suicide
Read if you like: Autumn by Ali Smith, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Memoir
Tone: Inspring, Comforting
Structure: Told first person from Michelle’s point of view, primarily in chronological order
Read if you like: The Obamas. And if you do like the Obamas I so recommend listening on audio.

#UnreadShelfProject2018 Wrap Up!

What’s better than an end of year wrap-up? If you ask me, not much. 🙂 I’ve been loving reading all the “End of Year Best Of…” lists, but before I get to my favorite books of 2018, I want to look back at my goals for this year — specifically how did the Unread Shelf Project 2018 go?!

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This was my original photo of the seven books I absolutely promised myself I would read this year. Update: I read them all!

Let’s start with the stats:

Unread books owned as of January 1st 2018:
Read: 10
Donated: 6
Remaining: 0 (HORRAY!!)

Books purchased in 2018:
Books purchased AND read in 2018: 13
Books purchased and NOT read in 2018: 13

Here’s a little more of the breakdown —

READ 2018 UNREAD 2018
Owned Pre 2018 10
Purchased New 2018 5 8
Purchased BOTM 5 4
Purchased Used 3 1
Library Books 7
Audiobooks 9
Lent by Friend 6 4
Gifted by Friend 2 2
Gifted by Publisher 11 2

And now, on to how I feel about it:

The fact that 20 out of the 58 books I read this year are books that I purchased tells me two things: I did a great job of reading books that I didn’t pay for and I also made some serious progress on my unread shelf. Overall, I’m happy with the progress I made!

This little study is also a great way for me to see that while I did a great job this year reading books lent or given to me, I also bought more books than I can read. I’m going to set a rule of only FIVE books outside of Book of the Month selections for all of 2019, and I can only get a Book of the Month pick if I’ve finished the selections I already chose. The bottom line is that I have so many sources of receiving books, and I really don’t need to purchase books (except when sometimes I definitely do….), so I’m going to limit but not restrict that number.

And what about the specific Unread Shelf Challenge?

Overall as a challenge, I really liked the specific prompts that each month presented. A lot of the times the books on our unread shelf are books we’ve been avoiding for one reason or another, and the little kick in the butt is exactly what we need to read them!

One challenge that surprised me was ‘read the book you most recently purchased’. I loved that one because it made me realize how frequently I get a book and add it to the bottom of the pile, and then end up losing the anticipation that had caused me to hit purchase in the first place.

I’m not sure if I will participate again, but if not this challenge maybe another to help me check off some books. As I hinted to in my Gift Guide, I’m very interested in the Read Harder Challenge!

If you’re interested in the challenge and how it broke down from month-to-month, you can check out all the challenges and reviews here! Let me know if you participated in a similar challenge this year and how it went for you!

Here’s to continuing to read our shelves in 2019 🙂

November Reading Recap

November was a slow reading month for me. I really wanted to participate in Nonfiction November, but in order to do so I had to slow things down. I tend to read nonfiction more slowly than my usual reading speed, and I also spent a lot of time blogging to keep up with the NN blog prompts! Not to mention some extra long days in the office that kept me away from my books. 🙂 I learned a lot and am really glad I did it, even though I only got through three books this month.

Here they are!

Bad Blood by David Carreyrou
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Nonfiction
Tone: Intriguing, Suspenseful, Shocking
Structure: Linear timeline, told mostly in the third person until the author gets involved
Read if you like: Investigative Journalism, American Fire, Killers of the Flower Moon

Playing Through The Whistle by S.L. Price
Rating:
2.5/5
Genre: History/Nonfiction
Tone: Reverent
Structure: Linear timeline – detailed history interspersed with scenes of sporting events
Read if you like: American history, Janesville

Fun Home by Allison Bechdel
Rating: 4/5
Genre: Graphic Novel/Memoir
Tone: Thoughtful, Literary, Tragic Humor
Structure: Graphic novel spelling out a nonlinear history of a father daughter relationship
Read if you like: Family dynamics, LGBTQ stories, Graphic Novels (sorry for the lack of comparisons – this book is so unique to me!)

And that’s it! Despite being a slow month, it was a pretty good month and I’m really happy with everything that I read. What did you read this month?

Reads Like Fiction

I get requests for this type of book all the time (particularly from my mom. Hi Mom!), and my response is always one of two answers. 1) DEADWAKE BY ERIC LARSON or 2) You’ve read Deadwake? Well, books like this don’t really come along that often…

Seriously though, I think Deadwake is one of the best narrative nonfiction books of our time. This is one book where the realness of it adds value.

Imagine being in a submarine, so literally far below the ocean’s surface, where humans shouldn’t exist, and your two options outside of 100% perfection and sucess are either being discovered and bombed by the British causing immediate death, or fearing discovery, losing oxygen due to not being able to surface for more air, causing a slower death. The writing in Deadwake that exposed me to the conditions of submarine warfare truly blew me away but in a way where I wanted to keep reading and experiencing the story.

Aside from the haunting truths about marine life, Deadwake also a love story. Not only that, a presidential love story. I’m sure how many  of you are fans of The American President (the movie) or Scandal (the tv show) but to be there’s no better plot line than a presidental love story.

And finally there’s the story of the rich and famous – of the people who get to sail on a luxury ship from New York to London. We all loved the Titanic for the glitz and the glam and the Lusitania is no different in that regard.

So glitz, glam, love, shocking nonfiction, and of course one of histories greatest disasters. Deadwake is truly one of my favorite narrative nonfiction reads and can confidently say it reads like nonfiction.

 

Book Review: Playing Through The Whistle

Author: S. L. Price
Published: October 4, 2016
Genre: Nonfiction
FLW Rating: 2.5/5

Aliquippa, Pennsylvania is a fascinating place. It’s one of the top two towns in the country to produce NFL players, but with one of the lowest average incomes. It’s a town that has truly been through it all and is a great way to learn about the last century of American History. That being said, the breadth of this book was both too wide and too narrow to be an enjoyable reading experience. I’ll explain more but first, the synopsis:

Playing Through The Whistle is the story of  Aliquippa, a suburb of Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania, that has been through it all. From steel mills and labor unions, to becoming WPIAL and State champions in both football AND basketball, to handling racial tensions and gang violence in the 80s, Aliquippa can serve as a microhistory of the 20th century in the rustbelt of America.

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To me a nonfiction book needs a cohesive plot, and in this case that storyline that flowed throughout the book was a modern day football game. But throughout the 450 page book, the modern day plot line only popped in to cover about 4 pages, and honestly didn’t add any value in my opinion because I didn’t really get enough of it to understand it’s significance. Part of me is also a little upset that the book was started with the modern day scene because I got excited about that aspect and then I never felt like it was fulfilled. Long story short, I felt like this book just lacked a story. (You won’t find this in my “Reads like Fiction” post later this week!)

To come back to what I said in the beginning – I felt like this book was both too wide and too narrow. The book spanned from the early 1900s to present day, but as the plot progressed through the century, the writing was incredibly detailed. I struggled with this because it meant there were so many names, and I wasn’t sure whose names to remember and whose names I could forget. Trust me, remembering all of them is not an option. Since the plot was so laser focused at times, it had to move quickly and I felt like I was both a little bored and a little rushed. I didn’t like the tempo!

Since I guess what I’m saying is that I wish this book were a little more focused on the story and told from a little higher of a level. I do think Aliquippa should receive the attention it deserves, so while I’m not sure I would tell you to read this whole thing, I want to share some of the highlights. If these pique your interest then by all mean, pick this one up! And let me know how you like it!

  • Aliquippa is on the forefront of labor unions – as the steelworkers needed to unionize to protect the worker’s rights
  • Aliquippa remained (relatively) above racial conflict until 1978!
  • Once the steel mills closed, there was a white migration out of Aliquippa that the town had to adjust to
  • The options for Aliquippa youth became football success or dealing on the streets
  • Two of the NFL players to come out of Aliquippa were Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett

This (obviously) only skims the surface of what is covered in this book, but if it piques your interest check out this book! In my opinion, the book could have been done better and wasn’t my favorite book to read, tempo-wise, but there is so much to learn about Aliquippa and so much that can be learned from this story.

What I’m Reading: November

A little late to the game, but I’m here to “preview”my November reads — which will feature the theme of Nonfiction November! I have always touted myself as a lover of nonfiction, and while this remains true, I’ve found myself drawn to easier and quicker reads since joining the bookstagram and book blogging community. I’m excited to gain some headway on my non-fiction TBR and dedicate a month to reading some of those I’ve been dying to get to. Here’s how it’ll work:

Reading

My goal is to read FIVE nonfiction titles this month. Two hardcopies from my unread shelf, two kindle (e-arcs) I’ve been given from publishers recently, and one audiobook from my unread shelf) that’s available on Scribd.

(Note all images and descriptions from Goodreads)

Asperger’s Children by Edith Sheffer –  Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defense of children with disabilities. But in this groundbreaking book, prize-winning historian Edith Sheffer exposes that Asperger was not only involved in the racial policies of Hitler’s Third Reich, he was complicit in the murder of children. In the first comprehensive history of the links between autism and Nazism, Sheffer uncovers how a diagnosis common today emerged from the atrocities of the Third Reich. With vivid storytelling and wide-ranging research, Asperger’s Children will move readers to rethink how societies assess, label, and treat those diagnosed with disabilities

Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic – Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis is sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she is struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship is instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sinks within minutes. Some 300 men go down with the ship. Nearly 900 make it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battle injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 will survive. A sweeping saga of survival, sacrifice, justice, and love, Indianapolis stands as both groundbreaking naval history and spellbinding narrative—and brings the ship and her heroic crew back to full, vivid, unforgettable life.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers. In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.

The Age of Walls by Tim Marshall – The globe has always been a world of walls, from the Great Wall of China to Hadrian’s Wall to the Berlin Wall. But a new age of isolationism and economic nationalism is upon us, visible not just in Trump’s obsession with building a wall on the Mexico border or in Britain’s Brexit vote but in many other places as well. China has the great Firewall, holding back Western culture. Europe’s countries are walling themselves against immigrants, terrorism, and currency issues. South Africa has heavily gated communities, and massive walls or fences separate people in the Middle East, Korea, Sudan, India, and other places around the world. As with Marshall’s first two books, The Age of Walls is a brisk read, divided by geographic region. He provides an engaging context that is often missing from political discussion and draws on his real life experiences as a reporter from hotspots around the globe. He examines how walls (which Marshall calls “monuments to the failure of politics”), borders, and barriers have been shaping our political landscape for hundreds of years, and especially since 2001, and how they figure in the diplomatic relations and geo-political events of today.

The Longest Line on the Map by Eric Rutkow – The Pan-American Highway is the longest road in the world, running the length of the Western Hemisphere from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in South America. It represents a dream of friendship, commerce, mobility, of the Americas united. Our collective imaginations have been forged along its path: Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the iconic Argentine revolutionary, traveled it northward in The Motorcycle Diaries; Jack Kerouac, the voice of the beat generation, followed it southward in On the Road. Many adventurers have journeyed the highway’s distance, but the road itself still remains shrouded in mystery. Why was it built? And why does it remain unfinished, with a sixty-mile long break, the famed Darien Gap, enduring between Panama and Colombia? Now historian Eric Rutkow chronicles the full story of the highway’s long, winding path to construction, which reshaped foreign policy, cost US taxpayers a billion dollars, consumed countless lives over a 150-year period, and changed the destinies of two continents. Fully illustrated with photographs, documents, and maps, The Longest Line on the Map offers readers a bird’s eye view of the incredible highway that snakes through more than a century’s worth of US and Latin American history, ending in a triumphant ideology that insists the Americas share a common destiny and mutual interests

Posting

Throughout the month I’ll be sharing reviews of the books I’m reading and I’ll look forward to your non-fiction reviews as well! I also intend to participate in the weekly posting challenges by the group of bloggers hosting this themed month of reading! Here are the prompts:

10/29-11/2: – Your Year in Nonfiction Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

11/3-11/9 – Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

11/11-11/16 – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

11/17-11/23 Reads Like Fiction: Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

11/24-11/30 – New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

For more information check out the ladies who are hosting the challenge this month!

Happy (non-fiction) reading!

What I’m Reading: September

September is always the busiest month of the year for me – I’m not sure why it always surprises me! This year I’m traveling to the East Coast for a slew of family events and then continuing on to Portugal for a week of work/play! (ALL PORTUGAL SUGGESTIONS WELCOME – I’LL BE IN LISBON!) After that I’ll be home but cramming for an engineering licensing exam while also trying to celebrate my birthday. Oof!

In terms of books, I have so many books I want to read, and after sticking to a strict TBR in August I want to give myself some wiggle room. So here are my top 3 for this month!

The Witch Elm by Tana French
Pub Date: October 9, 2018
Publisher: Viking Books
IT’S FINALLY HERE! I’ve been waiting years to read a new book by Tana French and I cannot wait to read this book!

Goodreads Desciption: Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin 
Pub Date: February 13, 2018
Publisher: Berkeley Pub
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! (I said I would read this last month but didn’t have time. It’d definitely a priority for me this month!)

Goodreads Description: Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years. 

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

Autumn by Ali Smith
Pub Date: February 7, 2017
The Challenge this month for #theunreadshelfproject2018 is to read a FALL book – think blankets, hot apple cider, leaves falling, sweater weather…. I could go on. And since there’s never been a more “fall” book than one titled Autumn, I’ve decided to read this one! I picked this one up at a used book store last month and I’m excited to get to read it so soon! (Fall doesn’t really hit San Diego until ~ November so I was giving myself some time 🙂 )

Goodreads Description: Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Two old friends–Daniel, a centenarian, and Elisabeth, born in 1984–look to both the future and the past as the United Kingdom stands divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever.

A luminous meditation on the meaning of richness and harvest and worth, Autumn is the first installment of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet, and it casts an eye over our own time: Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d’esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art. Wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, Autumn is an unforgettable story about aging and time and love–and stories themselves.

What are you planning to read this month?

Book Review: The Book of Essie

Author: Meghan MacLean Weir
Published: June 18, 2018
Genre: Fiction/ YA
FLW Rating: 2.5/5

The Book of Essie is extremely popular right now – but it rubbed me the wrong way. The plot was simply too unoriginal for my taste, and all of the characters were too immature to enjoy reading about. I tried – I really did – but this one just didn’t do it for me.

The Book of Essie book is centered on Esther (Essie) Hicks, the youngest child in a religious family who stars in a reality series all about their life. Essie’s father is a pastor, so when Essie gets pregnant unexpectedly, the stakes are high as she works out what to do and what to tell the public.

The book was structured as three separate stories told by different characters- Essie, Liberty, and Rourke. Essie, as I mentioned, is the star of this show – the teenager who gets pregnant unexpectedly and has to figure out how to handle it. (She doesn’t have to, but if she wants things done on her terms, she does.) Liberty is an entertainment journalist who is interested in helping Essie, but also has a story of her own, which presents her with her own biased approach. Rourke, a classmate of Essie’s, may just be her way out. He has a secrets and hidden motivations as well, which make his side of the story enjoyable to read. Through Essie’s pregnancy, the three characters are forced to consider what they stand to gain, what they stand to lose, and what they truly want. There is no straightforward solution for any character, and therein lies the drama.

Beyond that, there is an underlying story of how did Essie get pregnant. It is clear that the answer is a secret for a reason, and as the details emerge each character is again faced with difficult decisions on what to do with the information they’ve obtained.

But herein lies my issue – each character acted with such short sightedness, naivite, and immaturity that I could hardly stand to continue reading this book. While Rourke was my clear favorite character, I just couldn’t stand watching him go along with the plans that were made. I know people have different pet peeves with characters, but mine is definitely characters who make immature decisions when honesty and maturity could solve the situation. That’s not a spoiler, just a general feeling.

This book had elements of scandal, reality television, and overbearing religious families, so I totally get the appeal and found this book entertaining. But ultimately I felt so disappointed by the lack of depth of this book. I felt like there could have been so much there, and somehow there just wasn’t.

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

July Reading Recap

Happy End of July! Overall, July was a great month for me – Looking back, the 4th of July was a blast, my new job celebrated summer with an outdoor party, my book club met on a beach for a Sunday afternoon of fun, we attended a beautiful wedding in Fullerton, California, and took a trip to San Francisco!

Between all of that, I was able to get through 5 books! That’s more than I expected considering my study schedule, but somehow I also feel like I didn’t really get in to any of them. Here are my quick thoughts on each with full reviews linked where available. Also quick note, these are in order of completion date!

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Literary Fiction, LGBTQ Fiction
Tone: Serious, Somber, Inquisitive
Structure: Alternating narrator in two distinct but related stories
Read if you like: reading about the AIDS crisis, Paris, cults, art history

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Tone: Cozy, Gothic, Suspense
Structure: First person in present time, with diary entries from the past
Read if you like: family dynamics, suspense, England


The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Genre: General Fiction (Felt YA to me)
Tone: Sassy, Snarky, Gossipy
Structure: Alternating narrator, Linear timeline
Read if you like: Reality TV culture

Boomtown by Sam Anderson

Rating: 4.5 Stars
Genre: American History
Tone: Respectful, Humorous, Intriguing
Structure: Two dominant story lines – one present day, one moving through time
Read if you like: American history with a sense of humor, urban planning, basketball

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Rating: 3 Stars
Genre: General Fiction
Tone: Quirky, Fantasty
Structure: A long meandering journey to a big climax
Read if you like: Going along for the ride, narrators who are a bit “different”

Did we overlap?? Tell me your favorite book you read this month!