A Weekend in Montreal

My new husband has never had a passport before this year, has never left the US, has never gone on much in the way of travel adventures. It’s time to change that!

After some flight searching and destination debating, we settled on Montreal in French Canada – the closest we can get to France right now with our budget! We had a fantastic long weekend there, and though it was rainy, it didn’t dampen our impression of this beautiful city! We packed a ton into the weekend…

We stayed at Hotel Zero 1 right next to Chinatown (recommended!), and ate our way through Chinatown (soup dumplings! bibimbap!) and beyond! We marveled at the Notre-Dame Basilica and  the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, we wandered the streets of Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal), and lost a few dollars in the casino.

We hiked around Mount Royal to find an amazing view of the Montreal skyline, we visited the St. Joseph Oratory (the largest church in Canada), wandered around the Jean Talon Market (oh, so envious…), ate in Little Italy, and got a bit lost in the Underground City.

We ambled through the Museum of Fine Arts (and I adored the special Thierry Mugler exhibit!), wandered the nearby neighborhoods, ate the best tapas of our lives, did some souvenir shopping near Place D’Armes, and enjoyed sleeping a leisurely 9 hours a night whilst on vacation!

For us, Montreal isn’t far (just a few hours in a plane), but it felt half a world away, and I got to practice my high school/college French, eat lots of tasty meals, see the sights, and introduce my husband to the wonders of travel. What a treat!



February Finds

Here’s what been on my TBR pile lately!


Inheritance by Dani Shapiro has been getting tons of press, and deservedly so. This beautifully written memoir is about Shapiro’s discovery – at age 54 – that her father, the father she adored, is not actually her biological father. After taking a DNA test and discovering this, she went on a quest to find her true biological father, and to understand the decisions her parents made in bringing her into the world. Throughout the process, she went down a rabbit hole of discovery, self-examination, and lots and lots of emotions to make peace with who she thought she was, and who she truly is. Engaging and interesting throughout, I recommend this memoir to any and all!

Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly was a swift and satisfying read! Jane and Leon – both writers living in domestic bliss in Liverpool – seem to have an idyllic life, but when Leon is attacked in their driveway one day, Jane finds that Leon not only may not survive, but that there was secret after secret creeping through his life that she was completely unaware of. This novel was super fast to get into, and I liked how the narrative took the reader back and forth on an emotional roller coaster to see if Jane can unravel things while still being grounded in good old suspense. Recommended!

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann was all over bestseller lists when it was released last spring, so I’m just super late to the party! This is a fascinating non-fiction account of a piece of history I knew nothing about – the murder of dozens (or more) wealthy Osage Indians in the early 1920s, all due to headrights for oil found on their land. This account also weaves in the burgeoning growth of the FBI (which was in an infancy when this was happening) under J. Edgar Hoover, and how it was critical to finding perpetrators and bring them to trial, though there is a lot of this story that feels unsolved and understood. We’re discussing this in my book club soon, and I think we’ll have lots to say!

Latest Titles…

Here’s what’s been lighting up my Kindle lately…


Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley is a bit of an enigma to me. I found the style (no quotation marks, very, very long descriptive paragraphs where very little happens) slow to read and hard to really get into. I was intrigued by the premise though – two tight-knit couples who have to navigate life after one of them unexpectedly dies. I really tried to get with the flow of the novel, but it never coalesced for me… because nothing really ever happened throughout the course of the novel. This might be for some readers, it just wasn’t for me.

The Girls of 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib was just compulsively readable, despite the difficult subject matter. Parisienne Anna – a former dancer – has followed the love of her life ,Matthias, to the States, and while he works at a great job, she begins to slide down the slope of anorexia and self-punishment until she lands as an inpatient at 17 Swann Street alongside other women struggling with eating disorders. This novel is immersive, emotional, difficult, but so easy to get into and stay with until the last page. The author does such a great job of really putting the reader into the mind of Anna, and how every bite of food is a struggle – and a triumph. I really loved this one.

Heavy by Kiese Laymon has been lauded for his examination of being black, gay, and overweight in America, so I really wanted to love this… but the writing style just wasn’t for me, and I really struggled to get into, follow and have all the feels for this story. Just not the right book for me…

The Au Pair by Emma Rous was the perfect book to dive into for a weekend! Taking place on the coast of England, this novel is totally atmospheric and engaging as Laura, a shy college au pair, becomes entangled with the Mayes family and their young child (her charge). She ebbs and flows in her relationships with all the family members, until one shocking day that ends in both birth and death. But what really happened that day? Told in present day and flashbacks, this novel keeps the reader engrossed in the characters, the emotions, and the “whodunit” of that fateful day. I totally devoured this, and loved the setting and “locked room mystery” aspect of the story. This novel has been getting a lot of advanced praise, and deservedly so!

First Reads of 2019…

Okay, let’s see if I can stay consistently on top of my book reviews (says she, optimistically!)…


Every Monday Matters by Matthew Emerzian feels like a bunch of fortune cookie quotations and wisdom wrapped up in a feel-good book. It annoyed me. LOL

The Lost Man by Jane Harper is the new stand-alone suspense novel from this breakout Australian author, and it did not disappoint. Two brothers meet at a remote point of their farm in the Australian back country… and their third brother lays dead at their feet. What exactly happened out in the nothingness?! The setting of this novel is as much a character as those featured on the page – recommended!

An Anonymous Girl by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks was a must-read for me after devouring “The Wife Between Us” and loving it, and this was another twisty, suspens-y game of cat and mouse with the authors and the reader. It didn’t have the same *jaw dropper* moment that the previous did, but I definitely enjoyed watching the threads twist to see who was going to do what to whom. Very enjoyable!

Playing with FIRE by Scott Rieckens was an interesting memoir cum financial guide, as Rieckens and his wife embark on a journey to FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early. I’ve heard of this movement, but this gives a more “boots on the ground” view of really going hard to save and save to retire early.

One Day in December by Josie Silver just charmed the socks off of me, and was the perfect book at the perfect time. 🙂 Boy and girl spot each other at a London bus stop… are pulled apart before they can meet… girl searches for boy, only to find him a year later… as the boyfriend of her best friend. Nooooo! This novel traces the lives of all the characters over the course of at least a decade, so you really get immersed in their emotions, relationships and actions – I just loved it beginning to end!

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was a good read, but a perplexing one. A mystery illness causes people to fall asleep in a small college town with no rhyme or reason. I really got invested in some of the characters and liked the meandering style of the writing, but found myself somewhat frustrated by the end. Still recommended though!

The Nature Fix by Florence Williams was a read after hearing about it on the “By the Book” podcast, about how being in nature (a little or a lot) affects our mood and physiology. I liked her visits to various experiments, experiences and green spaces around the globe, but this was a bit of a dry read at times. Very thought provoking though!

A Few Faves From 2018…

I wanted to call out some fave reads from 2018 for a lengthier review… did you check any of these out in 2018?
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou was just… man, truth is stranger than fiction. This is a retelling of Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos scandal. I remember hearing just a teeny bit about this story, but diving into it just took my fascinating/horror to a whole new level as Holmes convinced tons of investors to give her millions and millions on promised technology… that never worked. If you’ve gotten sucked into the Fyre Festival documentaries lately, this is right up your alley!
The White Darkness by David Grann is a teeny, tiny nonfiction story, but it really stuck with me. In it, Grann follows the trials and travails of Henry Worsley, as he tries to break several records in crossing the Antarctic, one of them completely solo. I love a good man-versus-nature story, and this is just great storytelling coupled with that very spirit. I really enjoyed it (and it only took a little while to read!)
The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson is unlike any other mystery I read this year. First, it’s set in Iceland (which, of course, I’m into since Johnna and I visited), and features an unlikely heroine… a female police inspector in her 60s being pushed out of her position. She decides to investigate just one last case… and the ending of this novel as stuck with me all year long! If you read it, I wanna know your thoughts!
Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee was a special read… first, I met Lee (and got his autograph) on this copy at a conference, then eagerly devoured it chapter by chapter, smiling in particular at the one set in a restaurant in Indianapolis that I LOVE. Lee does such a beautiful job of combining food culture, the immigrant experience, recipes, and evoking what every bite tastes like with a completely approachable, unpretentious air. I loved every page, and wish I’d been along for the ride!
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was just… magic. I was reluctant to read it after ALL the hype, but was immediately sucked into the setting, the story of the “Marsh Girl”, and the community that keeps her at a distance. I couldn’t stop reading and friends, I actually *cried* at the end – both at the ending, and at the fact the story, the setting was leaving me. So highly recommended…

Hang On, We’re Going Big!


That’s right… in order to assuage my guilt over my lack of book reviews, I’m going to try and cram lots (and lots) of one-sentence book reviews into this one post as I look back over my 2018 reads so I can start 2019 with a “fresh slate”, as it were. Here we go!


Anthony, Gretchen. Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners – Quirky family drama, but enjoyable!
Armstrong, Heather B. The Valedictorian of Being Dead – Absolutely LOVED this non-fiction memoir dealing with depression and family
Auvinen, Karen. Rough Beauty – Single girl in the Rockies… wanted *more* from it…

Bloom, Amy. White Houses – fictionalized Eleanor Roosevelt love story… felt a bit… stilted?
Burton, Tara Isabella. Social Creature –  Instagram, FOMO and murder!
Byrne, Kerrigan. The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo – LOVE any of her books!

Carlino, Renee. Blind Kiss – Fun romance premise, but didn’t deliver the *zing* I wanted…
Candlish, Louise. Our House – Such an interesting suspense premise, I enjoyed it!
Chiklis, Autumn. Smothered – Overbearing mother, figuring-it-out millenial…
Clarkson, Sarah. Book Girl – Eh.
Clinton, Bill and Patterson, James. The President is Missing – Surprisingly fun and suspenseful, and felt very authentic!

Dalcher, Christina. Vox – Didn’t live up to the hype…
Dare, Tessa. The Governess Game – Tessa writes, and I’ll always read it!
Dare, Tessa et al. How the Dukes Stole Christmas – Same!
Dare, Tessa. Once Upon a Winter’s Eve – Same!
de Rosnay, Tatiana. The Rain Watcher – Quiet but powerful family drama…
Doan, Amy Mason. The Summer List – Loved the premise of this “women’s fiction” story…

Enger, Leif. Virgil Wander – Meandering but sweet…

Faye, Gael. Small Country – A tough read on the immigrant experience…
Frear, Caz. Sweet Little Lies – I don’t even remember this one :-/

Giffin, Emily. All We Ever Wanted – Full of depth and tough choices for an affluent family…
Grisham, John. The Reckoning – I slogged through ALL those pages… FOR THAT?!
Guillory, Jasmine. The Proposal – Fun, sexy, frothy, foodie, lovely!

Han, Jenny. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – In anticipation of the Netflix movie!
Harris, Anstey. Goodbye, Paris – I don’t remember it :-/
Hoover, Colleen. All Your Perfects – I really loved the two main characters, they became friends to me…

James, Eloisa. Born to be Wilde – Always love Eloisa!
Jeffries, Sabrina. ‘Twas the Night After Christmas – A lovely reread!
Jones, Tayari. An American Marriage – Difficult subject matter, but beautifully rendered, recommended!

Kor, Eva. Surviving the Angel of Death – An amazing survivor story from the Holocaust…
Kubica, Mary. When the Lights Go Out – This one’s ending just flat out PISSED ME OFF!

Land, Stephanie. Maid – Thought provoking and engaging…
Lee, Min Jin. Pachinko – So glad I read this sweeping family drama over generations in Korea…
Lynes, S.E. The Proposal – Eh, it was fine for the time…

Mailhot, Terese Marie. Heart Berries – I just flat didn’t like it, no matter the accolades…
Mastromonaco, Alyssa. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? – fun peek behind the Obama White House curtain…
Michaelides, Alex. The Silent Patient. – I wasn’t feeling the hype as much as everyone else…
Miller, Jennifer and Feifer, Jason. Mr. Nice Guy – Cute-ish
Mohammadi, Kamin. Bella Figura – loved this memoir of a year in Italy…
Moriarty, Liane. Nine Perfect Strangers – NOT what I expected, but still I totally got into it!
Moritsugu, Kim. The Showrunner – Frothy and silly, but fun!
Mustich, James. 1000 Books to Read Before You Die – Takes itself VERY seriously…

Osborn, John Jay. Listen to the Marriage – Interesting point of view for a “marriage in crisis” book…

Perri, Camille. When Katie Met Cassidy – Quirky but unique love story… felt authentic…
Perry, S.K. Let Me Be Like Water – Sad but sweet…
Pinborough, Sarah. Cross Her Heart – Eh.

Rosenbloom, Stephanie. Alone Time – Loved this memoir of travel and self reflection…

Sedaris, David. Calypso – LOVED. IT.
Serle, Rebecca. The Dinner List – Thought provoking and warm…
Sims, Thomas J. On Call In the Arctic – Absolutely loved this memoir – think “Northern Exposure”!
Soule, Charles. The Oracle Year – Eh, it was fun enough.
Steadman, Catherine. Something in the Water – Suspenseful and page-turning!
Summers, Courtney. Sadie – Sad, just beautifully done

Tamblyn, Amber. Any Man – Not my jam
Thayne, RaeAnne. Season of Wonder – Lovely little Christmas story…
Tomlinson, Tommy. The Elephant in the Room – Really loved this honest weight-loss memoir…
Tracy, PJ. The Guilty Dead – Another Monkeewrench novel!

Unger, Lisa. Under My Skin – Don’t remember it :-/

Weiss, Piper. You All Grow Up and Leave Me – Creepy memoir, but super slow moving and ultimately kinda boring…
Witherspoon, Reese. Whiskey in a Teacup – Fun lifestyle book from Reese!

Youngson, Anne. Meet Me at the Museum – Lovely, soft, warm epistolary novel

Zinovieff, Sofka. Putney – Icky, and not really in a good way…

2018 Reading Roundup

Even though I’m ludicrously behind on my book reviews, I did want to call out my year in reading, and shout out some of my favorite titles read last year, so here goes!


Number of books read in 2018: 128 titles
Number of books read in 2017 (for comparison): 131 titles
Average of books read per month: 11 books
Average of books read per week: 2.5 books
Daily average: 1 book read every 2.9 days
Percent of fiction read: 73%
Percent of nonfiction read: 27%
Number of YA books read: 5
Number of books read on the Kindle: 80

And now, for the best books of the year (in my humble opinion, of course!), in author alphabetical order… my benchmark is always… “did this book stick with me? Do I still remember the characters or plot? Did I think about it after I closed the cover?”…
Ausiello, Michael. Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies. NF.
Carreyrou, John. Bad Blood. NF, K.
Genova, Lisa. Every Note Played. F, K.
Grann, David. The White Darkness. NF, K.
Jonasson, Ragnar. The Darkness. F.
Kurson, Robert. Rocket Men. NF.
Lee, Edward. Buttermilk Graffiti. NF.
Mecham, Jesse. You Need a Budget. NF.
Owens, Delia. Where the Crawdads Sing. F.

What were your favorite reads this year that I should add to my TBR list?

And as for the Book Riot “Read Harder” challenge… I did pretty darn well! I only feel short in a couple of places, and this definitely pushed me to try some other lit I normally wouldn’t have. Yay challenges!

  1. A book published posthumously (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara)
  2. A book of true crime (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara)
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
  4. A comic written and drawn by the same person (Space Battle Lunchtime by Natalie Riess)
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa) (I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon)
  6. A book about nature (The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams)
  7. A western
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color (Bingo Love by Tee Franklin)
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature (Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys)
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color (Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai)
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980 (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak)
  12. A celebrity memoir (We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union)
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection (An American Marriage by Tayari Jones)
  14. A book of social science (The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking)
  15. A one-sitting book (Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson)
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han)
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image (Space Battle Lunchtime by Natalie Riess)
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation (The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani)
  20. A book with a cover you hate (Tangerine by Christine Mangan)
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author (Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan)
  22. An essay anthology
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 (The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein)
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished) (Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward)