Book Review: Ohio

Author: Stephen Markley
Published: August 21, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
FLW Rating: 2/5

I was so drawn to this book as a mash up of murder and social commentary — but I’m here to tell you it was neither. What I got out of this book was a very long and very wordy diatribe on modern America. To make it worse the pacing was uneven and the loose ends that made the plot intriguing never came together. Let me explain.

Ohio is the story of one night in the small town of New Canaan, Ohio, when four former classmates have returned home and somewhat accidentally run in to eachother. Told from the perspective of four distinct voices, each protagonist revists their past, while building up to the night of reunion, to form the full story of life today in America’s midwest.


This story covered it all — 9/11, terrorism, the opioid crisis, domestic violence, gay rights, and honestly probably even more than this. Basically – this book tried to do it all (hence the length of almost 500 pages). My issue is that it didn’t do any of them well. Most topics were both skimmed over and brutalized. The story didn’t dig in to any topic in particular, but instead just created a sort of chaos of negativity. In the end I didn’t finish the book with a heightened sense of awareness on any given topic and that truly disappointed me.

In a book like this, I like to trace the story through the perspectives and guess as to how they will all come together. Near the end of the prologue, Markley established that there was an accident on the far end of town where, as it foreshadowed, all four story lines would unite. The first three stories got there, but the fourth never did. I wasn’t sure if I had missed it, but I discussed the book with a few other reviewers and they agreed, the plot never looped back to the accident at the end — which left me extremely confused and unsatisfied as the reader. In rereading the book description, it appears that the connection between each story was meant to be Rick, a classmate who died in Iraq, but even that didn’t feel like a common thread, more a random coincidence.

The pacing of the book followed a similar pattern — three first stories were slow, but led you to believe that they were headed towards a common climax. On the contrary, the fourth book was INSANE, fast paced, and went in a different direction. I’ll admit that in other books I’ve read recently, I’ve forgiven a slow start for an action packed and rewarding finish, but since the pieces didn’t come together in this case the action packed finish never paid off and was just a greater reminder of the uneven pacing in this book.

My advice to you (since we all interpret books differently so I wouldn’t say don’t read it), is to really prepare yourself. This book is dark, heavy, intricate, and complicated with a ton of sex, violence, politics, and drugs. It may be for you, but it is not for everybody.

Book Review: Sweet Little Lies

Author: Caz Frear
Published: August 14, 2018
Genre: Mystery
FLW Rating: 3.5/5
Goodreads Link

This book is one of those books that both bingeworthy and slow – when you know you need to get to the end of the story, but also feel like there’s no direction. Sweet Little Lies is my favorite kind of police procedural, in which the murder that’s being investigated has so much more to do with the detectives than the victim. And sometimes, say late summer when life is stressful, it’s exactly what you need.

Sweet Little Lies is a murder mystery/police procedural in which a woman is found dead, but the person she’s identified to be only existed for a short time. The mystery starts there – who was this woman? and why did she recreate herself? And as this story is unraveled, and connections start to be uncovered, a dark truth emerges.


I personally have always been a fan of this type of story, so I’ve read my fair share. Trust me when I say that Sweet Little Lies is totally original! The story it uncovers is truly unique and complex, which makes devouring this book very entertaining. And that’s all I’ll say! I want you to enjoy for yourself!

HOWEVER, to pull off a book as complex as this, based on a mystery — which is to say the reader is scouring each word for clues — the details need to be clear. I have some questions — and I’m going to pose them here as questions, so if you’ve read this book and can answer them, please do, and if you’re considering reading this book maybe read for these details extra closely so you don’t end up confused like me!


Can someone explain to me geographically where the body was found vs. where her dad’s pub is located vs. where she grew up?

The geography of this book was very important to the story and, maybe I should have googled more of the locations, but sometimes when I’m so deep in a story, I don’t want to be taken out of it to use the internet. My issue was that I couldn’t fully picture where they were as they were bouncing around the United Kingdom. Her dad seemed to always be a 10 minute walk from one location, a 90 drive from another, and a flight from a third. I was always confused about the distances covered, which was a large part of the story.  The misunderstanding  is definitely due to my lack of knowledge of the region, but that shouldn’t play that big a role in understanding the story.

Conflict of Interest

Why was Cat “kept at arms length” but still allowed to work on the case a little bit? It seems like it should be an all or nothing deal.

It’s no secret, by this point in my review at least, that Cat Kinsella – the detective/ protagonist of our story –  was involved (by association) with the mystery she’s trying to solve. I would have expected that this would be uncovered by her coworkers and she would be removed from the case, but noone seems to acknowledge that fact. At the same time, Cat admits to being kept at arms length, possibly due to some psych issue she has. I was a) a little upset that the former psych issue was never really discussed, and b) so confused about her being kept at arms length but also not really stopped from doing any digging.

Overall, I loved reading an entertaining police procedural – they are just such comfort reads for me – and I really liked the direction Frear took this one in, allowing it to feel truly unique, but I was too distracted by the disconnect of certain details to fully appreciate this book to its potential. 3.5 Stars for me!

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!

Book Review: What Happened

Author: Hillary Clinton
Published: September 12, 2018
Genre: Memoir (Political)
FLW Rating: 4/5

As I’ve mentioned on here before, I don’t usually read books about recent history. If we’re being honest, I bought What Happened mostly as a coffee table book – something to display on my shelf for eternity as a sign of who I voted for in 2016. I kind of intended to read it, but after a few months I resigned to my fate of not reading it. But then I started The Unread Shelf Project and made it a goal to finish all books purchased before 1/1/2018 this year – so here we are.

I ended up listening to this book on audio, and I have to admit, I teared up in the first chapter. I almost stopped listening because it still felt too soon, but I powered through and the rest of the book was matter of fact – which to me is the strength of this book. It’s a non emotional explanation of intents and mistakes of the 2016 Presidential Election. No antics, no tears, no need to respond to attacks. I found it really helpful for me to have it all laid out in a civilized manner, so I can finally put the election behind me and focus on the future.

What Happened is the story of the 2016 Presidential Election, from the perspective of Hillary Clinton. It feels like an attempt from Hillary to be open with her supporters and let us know the background of many scandals that didn’t get proper coverage, focus, or explanation during the campaign. She discusses what she’s doing now, what it’s like to be a female in politics, Russia and why it matters, and those damn emails. It’s a must read for anyone looking for closure from the craziness of 2016!

While there no denying that this is an “agenda pushing campaign book”, I found that it had a lot more than that to offer. I enjoyed learning more about Clinton’s research in to females in politics and her perspectives on being a working mom. I also really enjoyed learning more about the email scandal because the reporting on that was all over the place during the campaign. And while I had been warned that the book was all about Comey, I found his role in the book to be considerable but not to the point of annoyance. There were times when I agreed with Hilary, but also times that I disagreed, and I would encourage everyone to read or listen to this book with a grain of salt.

I listened to this book on audio – which I thought was a great way to do it. The obvious perk is that the book is read by Hillary Clinton herself. You can hear where she gets exasperated or excited or any various emotion you may miss in print. It felt very personal to hear her expressing her confusion over why people didn’t find her to be an open book when she was as open as she possibly could be. The other perk is that in a long book about politics, there are times when you may want to zone out – audio was perfect for this 😊. The downside is that this book is very uniquely structured in hardcopy. There are sub chapters and sub sections separated by a boldly formatted quotes. When these are read in audio, it can seem confusing since they don’t explicitly tell you the chapter is changing, but once you get used to it, it starts to make sense.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It was great for me for reflecting on the election and moving past it – the last section of the book focuses on where do we go know. The answer: always forward.

Book Review: Chariot on the Mountain

Author: Jack Ford
Published: July 31, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
FLW Rating: 5/5

I seriously struggle with historical fiction if I think the story is “just” a novel from a different era – for a historical fiction novel to really strike me I need to know that it’s based on a true story. So I wanted to start off this review by saying this book is based on a true story and it is an extraordinary story that you will not find anywhere else. Ford, the author, discovered this story by reading a historical plaque on a courthouse in Virginia, and went through years of research to put this story together. Point being: If it weren’t for him this story would have gone untold. Luckily, Ford is also a fantastic writer so this book is full of complex narratives that make it a full 5 star read for me.

Chariot on the Mountain tells the story of Kitty’s journey to freedom. Kitty is a slave living on a plantation in Virginia, where she had always been given preferential treatment as she was the illegitimate child of the plantation owner. But when the owner passes away, Kitty knows her future will be uncertain if she stays put. The road to freedom is bumpy road to say the least, and before anything can be decided Kitty will travel the underground railroad, return to Virginia, and become to first black woman to sue a white man.

This book deals with the topic of slavery, and let’s just be honest, there’s no gray area with slavery – we all know slavery is bad. So I was really pleased with how effective the author was at surprising me with a) how bad it was and b) how commonplace it was. There was a lot of talk about how slavery was part of the lifestyle and how the northerners just didn’t understand their lifestyle, along with the realization of how hard it would be to abolish slavery since it’s so important for the economy. (Just think about how hard it is to outlaw something like guns today! There would have been so many fierce opponents of slavery who would have lobbied hard against the abolishionists.)

The dialog in this book also added to emotional impact for me. Coming primarily from the villain of the story, there were lines such as “they’re just slaves, it’s not as if they’re humans with emotions.” At first reading this, my reaction was to feel like the writing wasn’t very nuanced, too blunt and overstated and surely noone actually thought that, right? But the more this line stuck with me, the more I’ve come to appreciate the writing style. It really drove home the point of what it would be like to be in a country where you didn’t have a single human right. Perhaps not to the same extent, or maybe so depending on your political beliefs, but this didn’t seem too far off how I expect immigrants are being treated at the border today. One thing I worried about with this book, was that it was too far in the past for me to relate to, but emotions like this, unfortunately, made this book all too relevant in this crazy times.

Beyond knowing that the story was based on true events, I also enjoyed knowing that Ford was a lawyer. I worried that the court scenes would be written in a style bordering on cheesy, but I ended up enjoying the complexities of the law that he brought in to the story, which no doubt came from his experience in the court room.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book and am so happy that NetGalley pointed it out to me as a book I might like! I flew through it in a couple of days and always looked forward to picking it up again. It’s out on shelves now so I highly reccomend you check this one out!

[Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the free copy of the book. All opinions are my own]


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 ❤


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!

Book Review: The Distance Home

Author: Paula Saunders
Published: August 7, 2018
Genre: Fiction
FLW Rating: 4/5

The Distance Home is a somber tale – a foreboding story of both how small our lives are and the role of family in shaping those lives. While simultaneously told in the present and the past, this is a book that I couldn’t put down, even though, surprisingly, it wasn’t riddled with excitement. In this case the suspense was held by dark undertones that kept me pulled in and curious about how the story would get from the simple life at the start, to the darker times later on.


The Distance Home is the story of a family of four living in South Dakota in the 1960s. The timing and location don’t play a huge role in the story except to say that the lifestyle is basic – there is agriculture, there is school, and there is dance class. But the small world the family lives in is where each member of them will come in to themselves – for better or worse. 

To set the scene, I want to share one passage with you – this occurs in the first few pages. “What comes together falls apart. Parties are planned, celebrated, then disperse and dissolve as though they were no more than dreams; seasons come and go like magic tricks, flowers blooming then fading, snowbanks swelling then melting away. How could it be different for families? There’s coming together and moving apart, being young and growing old, being here and being gone.”

There are passages such as this throughout the book that foreshadow the life of each member of the family, and there are also more concrete passages that let you know where the family members will be in 10, 20, even 40 years after the majority of the book is written. To me this is the strength and the might of this book. While the story is told primarily through the childhood of Rene and Leo, up until both have left the house, these sections show you that so many of the emotions felt in the small moments of the narrative are both lasting and fleeting. Some actions will have direct correlations to the future, while others are futile and tell only the story of what is happening in that particular moment in time. It’s an interesting way to view relationships, both with others and with oneself.


If I had to give a downside, it would proabably be that the sadness I felt from this book was unexpected. The cover is a beautiful bright white, with flora and fauna, and a child running, I hardly expected to experience such a serious and poignant story. The story is one that requires the reader the think to enjoy it – although not to read it. Typically with a story this strong and artistic, I find the writing to be muddled and hard to read. I found the writing in this book incredibly readable, but found myself often thinking and reflecting that if the reader weren’t willing to step back every once in a while and think, this story could fall in to the category of sad or even dull.

Overall, I found this book to be a stunning debut novel and a beautifully crafted story, and the themes I experienced will certainly stay with me for a long time. This book is out today, so definitely check it out!

[Thank you to Random House for the free review copy.  All opinions are my own.]


Book Review: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

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

The July Challenge for The Unread Shelf Project was to “finish that series!” I don’t usually read series — the only series I’m in the middle of is Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache mysteries and in that case middle is a generous term. (I still have eleven of the twelve books to go..) So I decided to interpret the challenge as “finish that collection” and for me that meant read the last Fredrick Backman book that I own but haven’t read yet – My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

Author: Fredrik Backman
Published: June 16, 2015
Genre: Fiction
FLW Rating: 3/5

I’m just going to be up front about it – This book didn’t totally work for me. I’m not sure if it was me, or the book, or the timing and the circumstance, but this book felt flat for the first 300 pages, and finished with a big finish that still left me a little unsatisfied.

Fredrick Backman is (still) hands down a favorite author of mine. When I met him last month, he told me personally (while signing my copies of Us Against You and A Man Called Ove), that My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry is his personal favorite of his own books. I wanted to love it and run off in to the sunset with my feelings towards this author’s work, but I just can’t. However, I still plan to read Britt Marie was Here, and I plan to like it… and I’m here to tell you why.

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry is a story about Elsa, her crazy grandmother, his unconventional family, and her quirky set of neighbors. Elsa is an eight year old girl who likes to describe herself as “different”, and struggles repeatedly with bullies at school. Her grandmother is Elsa’s only friend and helps her escape reality by introducing her to an imaginary world called “The-Land-of-Almost-Awake”. But when her grandmother dies somewhat unexpectedly, Elsa is left with nothing but unexplained sadness and a letter she must deliver to a particular person. This letter takes her on a journey to discover the personalities and personal histories of those around her, leading her to make one big decision.


When we spoke, Backman said that he felt offended when people disliked Elsa — and I didn’t dislike Elsa but I think the faults I found with the book, stem from the book being narrated by an eight year old.

Throughout the book, I struggled to find consistency in her voice, which made identifying the tone and rhythm of the book more difficult. Particularly early on, there were moments of extreme sadness in the middle of an otherwise comedic story, and the surprise I felt at the change in tone pulled me out of the story more than it pulled me in to the characters. As I reflect on this, I noticed that this is somewhat typical of Backman’s books – to counter extreme sadness with an element of humor or hope, but it just didn’t work for me in this case.

Similarly, I found that I was having a hard time following all of the characters. Again, with Elsa being eight, not only was she learning along with the reader, but she just wasn’t the best story teller. She also used names, nicknames, and descriptions interchangably which felt very on brand for the character, but confused me as the reader. My advice for you reading this book: There was one page in which Elsa ran through who everyone in her building was – bookmark that page. I didn’t, and the rest of the book I spent wondering how people were connected. Serious suggestion for if this book gets reprintedPUT A MAP OF THE UNITS IN THE FRONT OF THE BOOK.  Again, having many characters seems typical in Backman’s work, but it just didn’t quite work here.

Once I made my way through the confusion, I did truly enjoy the plot. I think this book embodies the spirit of young adventure we all had as kids. I used to love scavenger hunts and this book certainly felt like I was back in the game! I mean really, is there a more satisfying arch than that? The end, as is the case in all good scavenger hunts, was both rewarding and eventful as well. It was action packed and full of emotion. While I wish Backman had spread those elements out over the course of the book, at least the book wasn’t completely lacking the action I was searching for.

One more thing – I liked that while this book was about Elsa, it also wasn’t about Elsa at all. It was about all what Elsa came to understand about those around her, including her mother, grandmother, and one very complicated chracter – Britt Marie. Which brings me back to my intro – despite not loving this book,  I am so excited to read another book about Britt Marie. To me, she felt like the understated point of this book, and I’m excited to see how Backman develops her in another book.

Overall, I think this book would make a fantastic movie. Putting faces to names would immensely help with the issue of losing track of the characters, and following Elsa around on her journey would bring me a lot of joy on the big screen. If you’re ready to enjoy the journey, I would definitely recommend this book, but take me as an example and don’t read it when all you really want to do is re-read your favorite police procedural.

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