Showing posts from 2018

Happy birthday to me!

Hi, again,

Today I'm celebrating my birthday (I'm 38, which is not an especially exciting age, but the next benchmark age is still two years away.) I like birthday a lot, and I tend to get pretty sentimental as I celebrate. Birthdays are how we mark time, and each year, I spend much of my birthday reflecting on the past year (or, when I turned 30, the past decade) and feeling grateful for all the big and little things in my life.

I'm on vacation from work today and spending it by myself, which is even better for my reflection. After I dropped Hawthorne off at school, I took myself out to breakfast. A lazy Monday morning breakfast is somehow more decadent than a weekend one.
I'm treating myself to one of Taylor Jenkins Reid's backlist novels (I'll have one left when I finish this one): Maybe in Another Life, which imagines two different paths for its protagonist Hannah. Perfect for my reflective birthday, right? Later today, I'm getting a much-needed haircut…

A letter to Rebecca Makkai, about The Great Believers

Dear Rebecca Makkai,

The Great Believers is your fourth book, but somehow it's the first one I read. I found this fact to be particularly confounding considering your debut novel, The Borrower, is about a librarian taking a road trip. That premise is completely perfect for me, a librarian who loves road trips and all kinds of travel (well, except camping and exploring nature, but I digress.) But, somehow, it's languished on my TBR like so many other wonderful books.

I'm so glad I picked up The Great Believers. The premise is ambitious: "In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, his friend Nico's little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged dau…

On making lists, reading long lists, and creating a new reading challenge for myself

I like making lists, which, at least among my bookternet communities of readers, writers and librarians, is not at all unusual. Lately, however, I've realized that I don't enjoy crossing things off lists as much as others seems to. It seems, odd, right? Isn't the point of lists to finish them? Either I truly don't enjoy reaching goals or I have become a realist. Here's my secret: I don't think I've ever actually finished reading an entire list of books I've made. I am one book away from finishing the 2012 Orange Prize (now Women's Prize) longlist (including the short list and winner.) But I'm also working on reading every book ever longlisted, shortlisted, and winners. (And by working, I mean I have many lists, one listing the ones I most want to read, one listing them in order from shortest to longest--achieve more faster!, one listing winners, one listing the one I most want to read for each year of the Prize, etc.) I've similarly attempte…

A letter to Taylor Jenkins Reid

Dear Taylor,

A year ago, I didn't know who you were. A couple of your book covers were vaguely familiar, but I hadn't read any of them. In July 2017, I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and I fell in love, with Evelyn and with your writing. It's a book I've recommended to many, many people over the last year, and they all report back how much they love it too. It was my favorite book of 2017. It's a book that made me want to read our backlist in order. I devoured Forever, Interrupted and After I Do in fall 2017 (they both made my top 10 fiction reads of 2017), and then I made myself slow down because I didn't want to live in a world where I didn't have more of your books to read. Instead I enjoyed following you on Instagram and Twitter. I read books you recommended and was recently thrilled to discover how much we both love The Bold Type.

When I saw you were speaking at the American Library Association conference, I was ecstatic. Your speech was so mu…

Win a copy of The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Update: A winner has been drawn. Congratulations, Andy B!

Today I'm thrilled to celebrated the publication of Rebecca Makkai's latest novel, The Great Believers, by giving away a copy to one of you. It's already received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist

Here's a synopsis: "In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis,…

Oh, hi!

Dear readers,

Hi, there.

I haven't been around much this year. Remember how I managed to blog so much in January that I wrote more posts than I wrote in all of 2017? That was awesome. Then I got home from Thailand and blogging fell apart again. Reading fell apart for awhile too. I've been seeing a lot of movies, and that's fun too.

But I miss this space. I miss writing. I miss the comments and conversations. I miss the accountability to write about what I'm reading (and watching, doing, eating, and seeing.) I've been thinking about how to find my way back to regularly writing and posting, and today I decided just to jump in and do it honestly.

Tomorrow, I'm back with an awesome giveaway for y'all.

Thanks for still being here,


As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

Audiobook thoughts: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Four years ago I bought the audiobook of Crazy Rich Asians when it was the Audible daily deal. This month, I finally listened to it. These are the things I learned:

1. There are A LOT of characters. Don't let it worry you. In the first chapter featuring all of the mothers, I almost gave up or started over. Keep listening. The more important characters emerge, and I wasn't confused. Part of that is due to:

2. Lynn Chen's narration is excellent. She utilizes voices so well, I wasn't even aware of them. I soon could tell who was talking simply through her performance, which makes me sad because:

3. She doesn't narrate the next two books in the series. This book is the last one she narrated. I hope it's because her acting career has really taken off and she doesn't have time.

4. Speaking of the next two books, this book's ending is: abrupt and unsatisfying. I looked at my phone and couldn't believe the book was over. It begs the reader to start the seco…

February 2018 Most Anticipated New Releases: Authors I Don't (Yet?) Love

Last week I shared the two February releases I'm most excited about from authors whose work I already know and love. Today I'm excited to share with you two new releases from I don't (yet?) love. 

The Queen of Heartsis Kimmery Martin's debut novel about two best friends, one a trauma surgeon and one a pediatric cardiologist. Martin is a doctor herself, and I'm intrigued at a glimpse inside the lives and loves of two doctors. It's being billed as a novel in the style of Grey's Anatomy, which sounds pretty great to me. Pre-order it now (Kindle version.) It releases February 13, 2018.
She Regrets Nothingis Andrea Dunlop's third novel. I first saw this novel on Taylor Jenkins Reid's Instagram, and when I looked it up, I was hooked by the first line of its blurb: "In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and o…

A Cautionary Tale: The Night Trade by Barry Eisler

Livia Lone, the first in a series featuring the titular character, was my favorite mystery of 2017. I've been looking forward to The Night Trade since I finished Livia Lone. I loved Livia Lone so much that I also wanted to read Eisler's other books, and I read the first in his John Rain series, A Clean Kill in Tokyo, earlier this month. I knew from the blurb that Livia returns to Thaiand in this book, and I managed to wait until I was in Thailand to read it.

The Night Trade picks up shortly after Livia Lone, and, as should be expected, there are tons of spoilers from the first book. It's clear this series is not one that can be read out of order. Livia Lone is a critical foundation for both the characters and story of Livia. Eisler recaps the highlights well in The Night Trade in case you've forgotten, but there's no substitute for reading the book itself.

What I wansn't expecting in The Night Trade was Dox, a character from the Rain books. I didn't encounte…

A love letter to Alafair Burke, author of The Wife

Dear Alafair,

I am so excited The Wife is making its way into the world this week. It was one of my favorite books of 2017, and I've been impatiently waiting to talk about it since I read it over Thanksgiving.

You're in my Hall of Fame, and I've read and enjoyed all of your books, from the Samantha Kincaid series to the Ellie Hatcher series, all of the standalones, and even the Under Suspicion series you write with Mary Higgins Clark. But, let's be honest, the books you write yourself are the best. And The WIfe is your best book yet.

Not only is The Wife your best book yet, it's unbelievably timely. The titular wife, Angela, finds herself in a situation that has become all-too-familiar in recent months: her husband, Jason, an NYU economist who has found relative fame after a book that helped launch a media career, is accused of sexual harassment by an intern. Soon, an allegation of rape from a colleague follows. This novel offers sobering, and often depressing, con…

Sunday Salon: Hello (again) from Thailand!

Good morning (again) from Thailand! It's my last morning waking up in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This afternoon, we fly to Krabi, where we relax at the beach for a few days before beginning the long, long journey home. Two of this week's highlights were our visit to the Elephant Nature Park and the night we spent in a rural village with beautiful mountain views:

This trip has been wonderful but challenging in many ways. I try to focus on the positive, and one of the things I've most enjoyed is how well I've integrated my reading and blogging into this trip. It's helped me stay connected to reality, as life in Thailand sometimes feels like I'm temporarily living in a different world. I'm thrilled that I've managed to still post each day this year. Considering I only managed 45 blog posts all of 2017, I think I've finally found my rhythm again, and it feels really good.

If you only read one thing I wrote last week...
Read my letter to Caroline Preston, an a…

Dear Ariel Levy, author of The Rules Do Not Apply

Dear Ariel Levy,

Many years ago, I read and enjoyed your first book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. For some reason, I didn't make the connection between the your books until I was listening to you read your memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply. Granted, the books are very different, and I read them thirteen years apart. I wasn't even tracking my reading in 2005. Still: knowing you wrote both of these very different, thought-provoking books makes it clear I will be in line to read any book you write.

I'm so glad you narrated The Rules Do Not Apply. It's such a personal story, and I can't imagine anyone else capturing the emotion, insight and thoughtfulness. Listening to this audiobook made me feel so close to you. When I decided The Rules Do Not Apply would be my next audiobook, I didn't know one of the themes of the book would be your international travel. It was such a happy accident for me, as I listened to it while I'm traveling…

February 2018 Most Anticipated New Releases: Authors I Already Love

Welcome to the first installment of a new monthly feature: Nomadreader's Most Anticipated New Releases! Today I'm highlighting two February new releases from authors I already love. Next week I'll highlight February releases by authors I haven't read before. 
As I looked over the long list of February new releases I'm really excited for, these two jumped right to the top. 
This Fallen Prey is the third book in Kelley Armstrong's Casey Duncan novel. I loved the first one so much, I immediately picked up the second one. This series is so original, but the mysteries are still fantastic. Pre-order it now (Kindle version). It releases February 6, 2018.
An American Marriageis Tayari Jones's fourth novel. Her last novel, Silver Sparrow (my review) was one of my favorite books of 2012. I've been eagerly awaiting her next novel for may years, and the premise sounds fabulous:  "Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the …

Dear Jenji Kohan

[this letter contains spoilers about all five seasons of Orange is the New Black)

Dear Jenji Kohan,

I finally finished watching season 5 of Orange is the New Black. Yes, it took me seven months, but this season was intense. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it was definitely hard for me to watch more than one episode in a sitting. I've been watching since the beginning, and this season made me realize just how complicated my relationship with this show is.

It's still one of the shows I love the most, simply because of how you manage to incorporate so many diverse voices and offer a rare perspective on so many lives, inside and outside of prison.

Yet, increasingly, I think you have a pacing problem. After five seasons, spread across five years, only ten months have passed on tv. Perhaps this pacing affects me because of how different my life looks than it did in 2013, when I watched season one in a single day with a few glasses of wine. When season 2 premiered, I was …

Dear Caroline Preston, author of The War Bride's Scrapbook

Dear Caroline Preston,

You hold a special place in my heart. I've always been a reader, but before I started blogging, I wasn't nearly as aware of all the new release books. When I was in high school, I discovered your first novel, Jackie by Josie, on the new release shelf at my local public library and checked it out. I loved it. I'm still drawn to fictional depictions of real women, and I loved that as much as the book was about Jackie O, it was more about Josie and her research. Your second novel, Lucy Crocker 2.0, about a woman who designs video games despite having no knowledge of technology, lived on my shelves for years (and moved a few times) before I finally stayed up late to read it at my mother-in-law's house the week Mr. Nomadreader and I moved to New York in 2008. I love when books stick in my mind so clearly I remember where I was when I read it.
When The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt came out in 2011, I read it immediately and loved it. I gave my mother a …

Dear Barry Eisler, author of A Clean Kill in Tokyo

Dear Barry Eisler,

Last year I read Livia Lone, the first in your new series about the badass titular character. It was my favorite mystery of 2017. I knew I wanted to start the rest of your backlist from the beginning, and I couldn't resist waiting to read your first mystery, renamed A Clean Kill in Tokyo, while I traveled through Tokyo earlier this month, as I love to read books set where I'm traveling.

I started A Clean Kill in Tokyo around 4:30 in the morning in Des Moines. I expected it would keep me company as I flew first to Chicago, then Tokyo, and finally to my final destination of Bangkok, where, incidentally, Livia Lone spent some time.

From the opening scenes (and the opening kill) of A Clean Kill in Tokyo, I knew I was in for a thrilling read. This book is relentless. As I read, I was impressed at how you balanced the pacing, character development, and setting. Tokyo (and to a large extent, Japan as a whole), is a character in this novel. As I read, I learned more…

Dear Steven Hartley, narrator of The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Dear Steven Hartley,

I listened to most of The Music Shop on flights from Des Moines, Iowa to Bangkok, Thailand (with stops in Chicago and at both Tokyo airport.) I don't like to fly, but I do love to travel, and flying is part of that reality. To help distract me from the fact that I'm flying, I like to pick books to transport me to a different place, and your narration made me feel like I was on Unity Street in the 1980's.

I decided to read The Music Shop when it was named a January Book of the Month pick. This year, I'm aiming to read all 60 Book of the Month picks, and to do that, I know I'll need to listen to one each month. I was quite intrigued when I saw The Music Shop was your first audiobook. After listening, I'm surprised, but I'm confident it won't be your last. The Music Shop is told from the point of view of Frank, a curmudgeonly, but loveable man who is passionate about music and vinyl (only vinyl.) Your performance made Frank come alive …

Sunday Salon: Good morning from Thailand!

Good morning from Chiang Mai, Thailand!

What a crazy, fun, exhausting week it's been. Last Monday at 3:30 a.m., I met my co-professor and the fourteen students taking our J-term travel course at the Des Moines airport. After delays in both Des Moines and Chicago (fuel pump issue requiring us to change planes), we arrived in Tokyo after our flight to Bangkok departed. The airline arranged a charter bus to take us from one Tokyo airport to the other, where we finally boarded a flight to Bangkok and arrived at 6 a.m. instead of midnight. We spent two days exploring Bangkok, then we took the overnight train to Chiang Mai, where we're settled in for another week before heading to Krabi. After so much travel, it's nice to be in the same place for awhile. It's also nice to be in Chiang Mai, a city I adore and have had the privilege of visiting three times in the last year and a half. It's my last time in Thailand for awhile, so I'm trying to soak up every minute of it…

Two lists about Every Breath You Take by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

(this post contains some spoilers, both of this book and the rest of the series)

There is so much to like about this book:

1. That cover is stunning.

2. The premise, a tv documentary working to solve cold cases by interviewing everyone involved, including the suspects, is great. I would definitely watch "Under Suspicion" if it were real. Reading the books is like watching the show, but we also get the behind-the-scenes action.

3. Laurie's dad is really great.

4. This novel is set at the Met Costume Ball. That's fun. And it inspired a really funny conversation with my friend Leslie, where we guessed what the conversation was like between Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke. It went something like this: "Who is the most glamorous celebrity you can think of who would attend the Costume Ball?" MHC: "Barbra Streisand!" AB: "Definitely Beyonce."

5. It's a fun, entertaining read. but...

There is so much not to like about this book.

1. This…

A letter to people who tell me I should read more classics

Dear Friends Who Think I Should Read More Classics,

You'll be pleased to hear the first book I read in 2018 was a classic. You will be disappointed to hear I did not like it. At all. I admit, I was a little disappointed too. I had been meaning to read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for years. It sounded like a classic I actually would like. It's very short (132 pages). It's written by a woman. It's about girls coming of age. What could go wrong? I found it annoyingly dated and quite dull.

I can understand why it would have been a powerful, moving novel when it was written. At that time, a character like Miss Jean Brodie might have been a revelation. In 2018, she's not. Or at least, she's not to me, because I'm drawn to portrayals of complicated women in fiction. I know it's not fair to blame the book for being of its time. I'm not blaming the book or Muriel Spark. This reading experience perfectly illustrates why I don't typically read classics a…

A letter to Reza Aslan, author of God: A Human History

Dear Reza,

A couple of years ago, I listened to you read the audiobook of Zealot: The Life and Times of  Jesus of Nazareth. I found it fascinating, if somewhat disappointing at the lack of (understandable) lack of information about Jesus himself. I really enjoyed listening to the book and liked the emphasis and enthusiasm you narrate with. When I heard you had a new book, God: A Human History, I wanted to listen to it too.

I, like many, have a complicated relationship with religion. I was raised in the United Methodist church. My father is a United Methodist pastor. Many of closest friends are also pastor's kids, and many more of closest friends are friends I met through church. About six years ago, I realized I didn't consider myself a Christian anymore. It was a big deal to me because being a liberal United Methodist was such a large part of my identity for so much of my life. It wasn't a big deal because I hadn't been actively attending church for a few years. I alw…

book journal: Explosion at Orly by Ann Uhry Abrams

The book I'm most excited about in 2018 is the new novel by Hannah Pittard, Visible Empire. I've loved two of her earlier novels, Reunion (my review) and Listen to Me. Like me, Pittard grew up in Atlanta and now lives in the Midwest. I'd be excited about any new novel by Hannah Pittard, but the premise of this one took my breath away:  "an epic novel—based on true events—of wealth, race, grief, and love, charting one sweltering summer in Atlanta that left no one unchanged. It’s a humid summer day when the phones begin to ring: disaster has struck. Air France Flight 007, which had been chartered to ferry home more than one hundred of Atlanta’s cultural leaders following a luxurious arts-oriented tour of Europe, crashed shortly after takeoff in Paris. In one fell swoop, most of the city’s wealthiest residents perished." How, I marveled, did I manage to grow up in Atlanta and not know about a plane crash that killed 132 people? As I began my quest to know more about…

book review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The backstory: The Chalk Man is the debut psychological thriller from British author C.J. Tudor.

The basics: Told in dual narratives in 1986, when Eddie and his friends discover the dismembered body of a young girl in the woods, and 2016, when Eddie and his friends each receive a cryptic chalk drawing in the mail.

My thoughts: I didn't order The Chalk Man as my December Book of the month, but judge Kristin Iverson's blurb did make me immediately start the egalley I had on my Kindle. This mystery wasn't even on my radar, and I'm so glad she convinced me to read this one. (Want to try Book of the Month? I'd love it if you use my referral link!)

The Chalk Man is a crime novel, but it doesn't necessarily read like one, as the crime is only part of the story. To be sure, there is a body discovered, and her head remains missing (how eerie is that?), but part of the benefit of the two timelines is the very ordinariness of life that infuses this story too. The characters …

book thoughts: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

The backstory: Greer Hendricks worked as an editor for more than 20 years. For her first novel, she teams up with one of the authors whose work she edited.

My thoughts: The Wife Between Us is one of this season's buzziest books, which is always a dangerous proposition for a thriller. And this particular thriller is one that benefits from the reader knowing as little as possible going into it. I'm glad I read this one before its publication so each surprise was still a surprise.

I read a thought of mysteries and thrillers, and I can't recall the last time I actually said out loud while reading, "wait, what?!" and flipped back a few pages to make sure I hadn't misread. This novel's first big twist is so much fun. It flips this novel on the reader, and it made me realize I was reading a very different novel than I thought I was. Unfortunately, after the thrill of that twist, I realized I actually preferred the novel this begins as rather than the one it ends …