This might seem hypocritical considering I have a book blog, but I don’t actually read book reviews — at least in their entirety. Hopefully that doesn’t scare away my readers. I like to form an opinion of a book with little input from others, especially critics who I don’t always trust. I love best-of lists and enjoy reading just enough of a review to understand the main plot and premise.
But let me clear: I need to know that main plot and premise before deciding to read a book.
This surprised my partner, Kyle, about a month ago after boarding a flight for Colorado. I had just received Before We Were Yours on my Kindle, but when Kyle asked what it was about, I couldn’t remember. Because that nagged me to no end, I made sure to Google it before takeoff.
Kyle was perplexed: “You couldn’t just start reading? You had to know what it was about?” Yes, yes I did. Why the judgment? And this is how the challenge was born and how I found myself reading The Dogs of Babel.
Have you ever wished you could talk to your pet? I mean, you spend so much time with the little fur balls, why wouldn’t you? They can sense when you’re sad, and they comfort you with their cuddles and love. They greet you when you come home and wag their tails to communicate their excitement. It seems entirely unfair that they can’t whisper they love you and that everything’s going to be OK and that we can’t reciprocate how much they mean to us too.
Speaking with our pets is the main conduit through which author Carolyn Parkhurst tells a heartbreaking story in The Dogs of Babel. In the beginning, you think it’s just about a man trying to communicate with his dog. It seems a little crazy, but is it really the worst idea? Soon a story about grief, loneliness, mental health, and internal struggle unfolds. Just like our pets, sometimes words evade us, and it’s impossible to convey how we really feel.
With special guests Lucky (left) and Snowy.
One of my first memories with my sister occurred when I was around five years old. I kicked her in the face because I wanted to know what a black eye looked like. Anger had nothing to do with it. I was notoriously the question-asker of the family after all, and my curiosity simply got the best of me.
As you can probably imagine, my parents — and my sister who is four years older — were not very happy with me. I don’t remember what my punishment was, but I insisted it wasn’t personal. Fortunately, Erin hasn’t held a grudge against me, and even though I spent a lot of my youth being jealous of my crazy smart and talented older sister (that’s not why I kicked her!), we’ve become close friends. She inspires me every day.
My close sisterly bond is one reason why I wanted to read Before We Were Yours. This incredibly tragic story about sisters who are separated and try to find their way back to each other is well-written and different from the plot of most novels. And it reminds you of the importance of family, especially of the sister who forgives you for any hurt and harm you may have caused in the past.
Fortunately, I have friends who give great book recs. That’s exactly what my friend Jen did this summer when she recommended How Not to Die Alone. I had heard this title before and thought it was a self-help book. Lord, that would be a depressing read. She assured me that was the furthest thing from the truth.
Jen was right.
After I finished this funny, quirky, and delightful fictional book, I knew I wanted to speak to its author, Richard Roper. He came through and answered some burning questions I had about his literary favorites; the main character, Andrew; and some new projects on the horizon.
Photo credit: Natalie Dawkins.
Oh, Colorado. What a kinship I have with thee. From the age of 17, when I first visited my aunt who was living there at the time, I’ve felt a special connection with the state. I vowed to move out there during college to intern, and I made that happen when I was 21. It was an incredible summer.
My love for Colorado is shared by my family who have all made several trips out west. My best friend and her now-husband are also from there, and I have many coworkers in the big C-O. As you can see, the bond I have with the Centennial State goes pretty deep.
Talk about a view.
I’m writing this review the morning after my best friend’s wedding. It was an evening filled with love, laughter, and anything but loneliness, which makes reminiscing on my latest read a little difficult. How is it possible, after witnessing such happiness between two people and among so many family and friends, for sadness and desolation to exist in the world?
The part of me not living on cloud nine after a beautiful wedding knows the reality. And that reality is what Richard Roper captures in his debut novel, How Not to Die Alone. It’s a lighthearted story of how fantasy can never match the real deal and how it’s never too late to get the life you’ve always wanted even if that’s outside your comfort zone. Although the title may sound like 2019’s most depressing book of the year, Roper succeeds in making it an absolute treat to read — laughs, loneliness, and all.
C’mon, this book takes its title from a Fleetwood Mac song. How could I not be drawn to this?
Most women have that one guy in their past. You know the one. Most likely, but not always, a cliché bad boy. Someone who drove you crazy in both good and bad ways. The one who took a long time to get over. The one who still pops up in your memory every now and then.
Well, that drama, of which we all have a relatable anecdote, is the subject of Carola Lovering’s debut novel. Because it’s a story we all know, it’s a story that can be challenging to tell. How can you write this dilemma in a way that feels fresh yet relatable? Lovering sort of accomplishes this in her sexy book, but the ways that make it feel new are also the ways that make it incredibly frustrating.