What I’ve Read This Spring

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain – Bill Bryson

I’d been reading so many dark and sad novels lately, I wanted to read something a little different. This was a sequel to Notes from a Small Island. The small island is the United Kingdom and the notes were regarding the author’s travels and observations of the country as he was preparing to move back to his native United States. That was 25 years ago. This time around he explored the UK from end to end, from the south, all the way up to the tip of Scotland around the time he became a British citizen.

For the first half of this adventure, he mostly complains about how crowded and expensive everything is which makes us kindred spirits (this is practically a hobby of mine) but doesn’t make for great reading. It did however, help me start a mental list of places to avoid if I ever make it to England again.

It gets better by the time he hits Shropshire though. His grumpy old man narrative continues but northeastern England seems to have retained some of that British charm he’d been nostalgic for. Next, he moves on to the Lakes District and Cumbria which is, incidentally, the land of my people (the Todd’s have lived in that area for as far back as I can trace – at least the late 1500s) and so I have a certain fondness for that area, despite the fact I’ve never been. Then, he seems to rush through Scotland.

Overall, it was ok. It wasn’t nearly as laugh out loud funny as his other work though.

No Safe House – Linwood Barclay

Every now and then I like to pick up a thriller. They tend to be formulaic but they’re quick and easy. Linwood Barclay is the gold standard of this genre, in my humble opinion. He also lives in my region, which is apropos of nothing.

This one followed a common theme found in many of his novels, where an average guy – in this case, a school teacher, gets unwittingly embroiled in something nefarious. It was creepy and suspenseful.

I was actually a bit annoyed with the story at first because there seemed to be a backstory that was often alluded to but never explained. Finally, I realized this was a sequel to another one of his books called No Time For Goodbye. Not having read it didn’t really prevent me from understanding this story, but if you do plan to read this one, I would suggest starting with the first book.

A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

A Visit From the Goon Squad was unique because it’s not so much a novel but a collection of interwoven short stories. The book is centred around two characters, a music producer and his assistant. The chapters were different stories, taking place in various timeframes and from the perspectives of assorted characters but always tied to the lives of the core people.

It was an interesting concept and enjoyable read, although I don’t think it was Pulitzer Prize good (it won the award in 2011). Who am I to judge though?

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride – 
Cary Elwes

When I first picked up this book, I doubted I was going to read it all the way through. It seemed like a good idea when I downloaded it. I’ve always loved The Princess Bride but did I really care about the behind the scenes stuff? I generally have little to no interest in how movies are made. I actually did finish it though. It was a tad on the dull side, but reading about what a positive experience it had been for the people involved was so heartwarming.

My biggest takeaway from this book though was the knowledge that the movie was adapted from a novel. How on earth did I miss this? I’ve not only been a huge fan of this movie since it came out when I was a tween, but I spent nearly 8 years of my adolescence and young adulthood working in libraries and bookstores. You would think that it would have it would have passed through my hands at some point, The fact that I had absolutely no idea there was Princess Bride novel is, well – inconceivable!

Needless to say, I’ve added it to my reading list.

Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate

I choose to read this one based on good reviews and recommendations and it really lived up to the hype. So far, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The story is a fictional amalgamation of a family affected by the infamous Tennessee Children’s Home Society – a child laundering scheme that managed to operate for 30 years – from around 1920 to 1950. The system was run by a monster while being protected and supported on the legal end by corrupt judges and politicians.

It was an absolutely heartbreaking story that was made even more gut wretching with the knowledge that there were thousands of real families that were torn apart and children who were robbed of their identities and sometimes even their lives at the hands of people who lined their pockets at their expense. It’s the kind of story that will linger in the back of your mind long after you’ve read it.

On that note, I’m now looking something uplifting to read. Have you read anything happy lately?

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