A Walk in the Woods ~ Bill Bryson

Image result for a walk in the woods

Date Completed: 10/18/2016

Rating: 6/10

I made the mistake of watching the movie adaptation of this book. I’m not going to say it’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it was pretty bad. I watched it with my aunt, and we both made it to the end before we spoke, at which point we both commented on how boring and anticlimactic we found the movie to be, having also both continued to watch it because we believed the other was interested and didn’t want to spoil it.

However, although Bryson and Katz’s grappling with the Appalachian Trail was nothing spectacular, I did find that I enjoyed Bryson’s writing style as well as the slew of information he put forth. At times pompous, at times humorous, this was the first of Bryson’s books I’ve read, and I would try reading another of his books. I truly appreciate that he was able to pack that much history and information into the story in such a conversational fashion, providing insight to a person like me who would not otherwise delve into such research on my own.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail does seem like an ambitious proposal. As someone who has proposed such a feet, I can’t yet tell you what my own thought process would be in such a situation. However, I do appreciate Bryson’s honest approach as well as admire that he still wrote a book despite giving up numerous times. Sometimes giving up is indeed what is best, and I believe the message here is that it’s okay to feel accomplished and still to give up on a goal that is out of reach, or even just if you don’t want to continue any longer. So much of the way we talk about things as a society is goal oriented with a feeling of accomplishment in the completion, and a feeling of failure in the abandonment. Bryson still experienced the Appalachian Trail, which is more than many people get the chance to do. He opens the door to conversation.

I don’t believe Bill Bryson has his own website, but he is the author of more than a dozen books as well as being published for having written a number of forwards. A Walk in the Woods has become one of his more famous books. He’s lived back and forth between the US and England all of his life.

Crooked Kingdom ~ Leigh Bardugo

Image result for crooked kingdom

Date Completed: 10/16/16

Rating: 10/10

My goodness, this book was amazing. Let’s hear it for the sequels that are better than the originals in the series! I wanted to just pick  up this book and read it all over again as soon as I finished.

This is the amazingly well-written sequel to Six of Crows, a YA fantasy seriesI usually don’t like sequels as well as originals, but I have to say, the story just gets better and better. So sad there are only two books in the series! The gang, Matthias, Nina, Kaz, Jesper, Inej, and Wylan continue their quest for ultimate freedom and prosperity in this follow-up heist novel, except this time it is literally the six of them against the world. It seems that every territory and group of people wants a piece of them, and Kaz Brekker can’t let that happen.

As I was reading this book, a couple of things came to mind. 1) Wow, it must be so hard to be Leigh Bardugo right now because she has to end this amazing world. There is literally so much pressure on her because she’s created such a successful moving story that thousands if not millions of people feel like they have a stake in. Wow. 2) It’s usually very annoying when all the main characters in books are romantically involved with one another, but it really works for this story and I’m glad that Bardugo went with it. All seven main characters are teamed up against the world, and they’ve been through so much together it makes sense that they would end up being all romantically involved. That tends to happen with such tight-knit groups of people, in my experience.

The cover, pages, layout, and everything was so beautiful on this book. I love reading books that are pretty to look at, and admit that I am often attracted to books for their outward appearance more than anything else about them. However, I was originally drawn to this book because it was the sequel of the much-hyped Six of Crows that somewhat disappointed me. Not that it wasn’t good, just that I didn’t feel like I couldn’t live without it, as many readers were raving on and on about. I mostly picked up this book because I couldn’t leave Inej hanging as she is one of my favorite characters.

I’m really pleased with the depth of each of the six main characters. Bardugo gives them each a traumatic and fascinating history that builds slowly over time, revealing more and more of their individual ticks. And leaves so much room for character development! I love the intricacy with which Bardugo tends to each of their blossoming and ever-changing friendships as well, how many dynamics there are between the different pairs and groups within the greater team. I truly feel like the story would not be complete without every single character, a feeling I do not always experience when reading books, especially with such a grand cast of characters.

Of course this book will tug on your heartstrings. How can it not when their is such grief and such danger around every bend? I found it so easy to love each character and feel their pain as they struggle to love and fight for each other, even as they brazenly lunge into dangerous situations. All I can say is, I hope they all find the hope they are looking for in the future.

Bardugo writes each chapter from a different character’s perspective, almost always from one of the six. I was still fascinated by the fact that she opened from Retvenko’s perspective and closed from Pekka Rollins. I can’t remember if she did something similar in Six of Crows, but stylistically it was an interesting move. It opens and ends with a kind of fear that is not really present for any of the other six characters, yet at the same time it doesn’t give an unfair advantage to any one of the six to open and close out this fantastical story.

Anyways, I recommend this book so strongly. You will have to Six of Crows first, and the story is so amazing between the both books. Happy reading to you all!

Leigh Barugo is a famous author of the YA Grisha series as well as Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. You can read my review of Six of Crows here or visit her website, which again, is beautifully crafted.

Speed Dating from the Shelf (#1)

ft. Queen Sugar, Odd Girl Out, and The Naked Truth

Due to the sheer amount of books that I’m hanging onto these days, I figured I’d try something new. Why not try on a bunch of books in quick succession and decide which ones I actually want to read? 3 chapters per book, boom boom boom, first impression, get it done. #speeddatingfromtheshelf


Let’s start with a quickie, Three Squares a Day with Occasional Toture by Julie Innis. I really didn’t like my first impression of this book. The sentences were mashed together without explaining to the reader what was going on, which wouldn’t be a problem if it were well-written or sparked some intrigue. It didn’t. Taking that book off the shelf. Moving on.


I started my coffee shop book date with a hot chocolate and Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile. This book had a pretty standard trope, a single mom getting into a fixer upper situation that she’s not really prepared for, a single father whose wife died… etc, etc. However, I am intrigued by the fact that they are brother and sister, so it’s probably a story about family ties? Baszile has good descriptors, if a little cheesy, “He was hardcore Nashville and Grand Ole Opry. Jim Beam straight from the bottle.” But yeah, I’d go for a second date with Queen Sugar! Looking forward to seeing where it goes.

I had pretty low expectations with Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons, as I thought it was going to be a pretty bad explanation of why girls bully other girls, etc, etc. Maybe some sexism thrown in. But I was pleasantly surprised as Simmons gathered narrative style research, allowing the girls she interviewed to be the authority of their own experiences. “Silence is deeply woven into the fabric of the female experience.” So, I would have to say I’m intrigued by the sociological perspective offered by this book.

Last but not least, I started The Naked Truth by Marvelyn Brown with Coutney E. Martin. This is a memoir of a girl who becomes HIV+ and her family experience, etc. Brown’s writing is not the most creative or verbose, but she makes keen observations. “When I look back on my childhood, I am struck by how alone I felt, how resilient I was, how much I suffered because of my mom’s outsized, unfulfilled expectations. Niether she nor I had any idea how far I would go, or how the Marilyn part of me would play such a key role in reaching those heights.” Brown has clearly reconciled with her past and is able to speak clearly about her feelings from her past. In conclusion, I’m looking forward to what looks to be an incredible memoir.

That’s a wrap for this week! Feeling confident that I can weed through my shelves and take some more trips to the little free libraries at this rate. Have you read any of these books? Got any feelings you’d like to share about any of these?

Lily and the Octopus ~ Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus | Surrey Libraries | BiblioCommons

Date Completed: 10/6/16

Rating: 9/10

I absolutely adored this story! It was really weird, like really really weird. The protagonist spends most of the story talking to his dog and listening to his dog’s replies. He also spends a fair bit of time talking to “the octopus” who isn’t even an octopus. So this book is basically the weirdest thing I’ve ever read. BUT, I got so attached to the protagonist and to Lily that I was literally ugly crying for over an hour. My roommates were very concerned. This book was worth it.

‘Don’t you have any favorite memories?’

Lily thinks about this. ‘All of my memories are my favorite memories.’

I’m amazed by this. ‘Even the bad ones?’

‘Dogs don’t remember bad memories.’ … What an incredible way to live. 

If you haven’t heard anything about this book yet, the premise is that of a single forty year old man, Ted, and his best friend/love of his life, Lily, a dachshund that he’s lived with for nearly 12 years. Lily, unfortunately, has a brain tumor, which he calls The Octopus. This novel started as a short story and developed into this incredible roller coaster ride, for which I am incredibly grateful.

Rowley used descriptive imagery, and his word choice was spot on. I really appreciated the analogies and metaphors. They made Ted’s situation feel more reachable. His descriptions are unique, but not distracting.

The protagonist has developed coping mechanisms to deal with the grief of his dog getting old as well as living the kind of life the he feels somewhat disappointed about. Thinking about these aspects of Ted’s mental health, make looking at the way that he talks to both Lily and the Octopus more fascinating and less far out there. For example, he talks a lot about the activities that he does with his dog on various days. Lily and he talk about boys on Monday, pizza on Sunday, Monopoly on either Friday or Saturday, etc, etc. I originally thought this was just a cute way to talk about how much time Ted spends with Lily, but quickly came to realize that this was something Ted believed was an integral part of his life. I appreciate that eventually Rowley does allow Ted to become a little more self-aware, and the topic of grief and coping is eventually broached by the protagonist himself.

I believe this is his debut novel, and you can read more about Steven Rowley and Lily and the Octopus here.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Jack Tiffany and Jack Thorne

Image result for harry potter and the cursed child

Date Completed: 10/1/2016

Rating: meh

I had a really hard time getting anywhere with this book. In fact, to be honest, I didn’t hardly read it at all. So much of the storyline just felt like a cop-out in that they took whole scenes from J.K. Rowling’s books and reorganized them for the play. I didn’t like reading this in script format, it just didn’t fit the imagery behind Rowling’s Harry Potter. I’m curious about the live performance, but otherwise this story is dead to me. Honestly I didn’t even want to read it, but a friend had a copy so I borrowed it to see if it was any good. I can’t say that I’m disappointed because my expectations were already really low, but I will say that there wasn’t much I found enjoyable about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

That’s all I want to say about this book – a short review is fitting for a book that I couldn’t even get through.

Oracle ~ L.C. Mawson

Image result for oracle l.c. mawson

Date Completed: 10/3/2016

Rating: 8/10

Freya Snow’s newest adventure entails less to do about romance and more to do about sisterly affection, heritage, and development of powers. I appreciate that Mawson diverged again from the trajectory of the romance with Damon to continue on more of a heist-style approach to Freya’s experience.

I’m glad we got to know Alice more throughout this book, and I appreciated the sisterly insight into Freya’s own abilities. Additionally I enjoyed the new layer of magical beings, the oracles, that were introduced to the story.

The story line is getting a little complicated with the sheer number of characters. Mawson does a good job of weaving characters back into the story line so that readers don’t forget about them entirely, but I’m not sure if or when they will all tie back together? I’m also concerned about how many side quests Freya seems to be partaking in before anything really big happens. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying each story as it comes, and definitely appreciating the mastery Mawson seems to be demonstrating for different plot techniques, but I would like to know where the story is going overall.

Mawson’s writing style is cleaner and the plot flows better in this book. Her writing has become increasingly more concise, an approach I am more and more appreciative of from writers. Mawson does not ramble, but presents details and descriptors with precision.

L.C. Mawson is the author of the Freya Snow series, a YA fantasy series that is inclusive! Yay! I’ve reviewed almost all of her other books, Hunt, White, Wings, The Short Story Collection, so you can check out those, and I also recommend checking out her website.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ~ Jesse Andrews

Image result for me earl and the dying girl

Date Completed: 9/29/2016

Rating: 9/10

This book was insanely funny! I laughed out loud more times than I can count; it was a very vocal reading for me despite just lying in bed reading it silently to myself. I can’t tell you how rare it is for me to actually laugh out loud while I’m reading, but this book was like candy. I read it in one sitting and absolutely loved it.

If you haven’t heard what this book is about yet, here’s a brief synopsis. You guessed it, it’s about the main character Greg, his best friend Earl, and a dying girl, a girl named Rachel who has leukemia. This is the story of how they become acquainted and the adventures of High School. It sounds pretty typical, but the humor was so spot on. The humor is what makes the book.

I loved how Andrews played around with writing styles, writing in script, bullet points, categories, interview style, etc. This made the pacing very fast and enjoyably readable. In fact, I would say reading it felt like the most natural and effortless thing I’ve done in quite a while.

What I found odd about this book was that I really didn’t fall in love with any of the characters. I didn’t even really like any of them all that much. The story just felt so real and yet so unreal and humorous that I think I really just fell in love with the story and the way it was written. I don’t read a comedy very often that’s written about someone with cancer and told by a main character who really doesn’t have that much of a personality. Yet despite that, I found myself close to tears on several occasions, tears for the characters in the story. Despite this book being so filled with humor that I was laughing hard, I found myself almost crying several times for characters that I didn’t really like all that much. How Andrews did this, I’m not sure, but his writing is pretty amazing.

This is Andrews’ debut novel. He recently published The Haters. You can read more about Jesse Andrews on his website.