Review: ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer

Climbing Mount Everest has never been on my bucket list. Mainly because I’m not much of a climber, also I’m afraid of heights and probably most important, I HATE the cold. But even if I were of the thrill seeking type and Everest piqued my interest, I would probably veto the idea after reading this book.

In 1996, Jon Krakauer is assigned by Outside Magazine to report on the commercialization of Mount Everest, but as a mountain climber himself, Krakauer proposes that he not only report from base camp, he do the climb as well. What he didn’t know is that the climb would be a fight for survival after a storm hits the mountain. The 1996 Mount Everest Disaster would leave eight climbers dead, several injured and ultimately change the lives of all those who survived.

“Into Thin Air” is Krakauer’s account of what happened in a personal narrative that transports readers to Mt. Everest. During this whole book, I felt like I was having a conversation with Krakauer as we travel from his home to various locations in his journey around the world until finally we reach the mountain.

Not only does Krakauer help you see everything he saw, but he captures all your senses. I couldn’t help but snuggle down into my fleece reading blanket as I could feel the wind pummeling the mountain and feel my fingers curl with the cold. I was shivering alongside him in his tent as he tries to get warm.

Interspersed with the details of the events leading up to the disaster, Krakauer also provides some historical context behind why Mt. Everest has become so popular, relaying the various expeditions to conquer Everest, the Nepal and Tibetan government efforts to increase tourism, the background of the Sherpas who know how to traverse the mountain and help guide climbers.

Krakauer notes that he wrote the book not long after returning home and that he has been told that he should have waited to put some time and perspective between him and what happened. Krakauer admits that he needed to get the story down on paper as a way of putting some closure to what happened, but I think it makes the story all the better. It is obvious that he does his research and conducts interviews to fill in where he can’t remember, but overall, he provides an emotional rawness to the story that probably would have been lost if he had waited. We get to know all of the individuals who were involved on that fatal day and we can’t help but feel the loss as he felt it.

This book was hard to put down and every time I did, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again to find out what had happened. However, I know that many of the other survivors have written their own accounts, some of whom have been critical of this book. It would be interesting to read what they remember and compare.

If you are interested in Mount Everest, this book is definitely a must read.

Book Club discussion: ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

My reread of “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee was just as enjoyable as the last two times, the most recent was in 2019 and my views on the book are similar to what they were then, which are outlined in my review.

We read this book for the Modern Library Book Club and unlike my 2019 discussion for the SARAH Book Club where everyone liked the book, this time we got mixed reviews. It raised the question of whether “To Kill A Mockingbird” is dated for the current time and if Harper Lee tries to make race a sentimental issue.

Everyone thought that Harper Lee was a good writer, and for the people who loved the book, they thought it genius on how she was able to weave different subplots together, which ultimately made this a strong book. Like me, many thought that every character had a role to play, though it was split between Atticus and Scout on who the favorites were. Atticus, for none other than taking up a case he knows he can’t win and Scout for being the one to tell it like it is in her childlike way.

While Scout is technically an adult when she is telling this story, she is narrating it through how she viewed it as a child, which I think is so important in how the more serious issues in this book are portrayed.

One member who grew up in the 60s in the Midwest said he never heard of this book growing up. Having read it for the first time this year, he thought thought that the book was probably considered radical where he was from and was never publicized there. He was glad that he finally got the chance to read it and loved it.

For those who didn’t like the book, thought it was too sentimental. That the Black characters are held to a different standard, that they are completely innocent, or they are treated as children, which bothered them. Many had read “Go Set a Watchman” which portrays Atticus quite differently than in “To Kill A Mockingbird”, and wondered why Lee never wanted the manuscript published, whether she was trying to hide the truth. This where the debate came in.

Some argued that Harper Lee was writing for the time, and trying to show through Atticus, that despite his true feelings, the idea is to treat others the way they want to be treated. Others brought up the book “Caste” which they said would provide a whole new perspective on the topic.

Others argued that the book was inclusive, and beyond race, it showed that you could be different. Scout was different from the other girls she grew up with; Boo Radley, some thought, probably had some mental disability but he wasn’t treated any differently by the adults. Can I just say that I loved the part when Scout finally meets Radley? Her reaction is so unexpected.

Despite the debate, everyone thought that the book was good for what it was and everyone left still friends.


Have you read “To Kill A Mockingbird”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

Review: ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf

Where do I begin when it comes to this book? I am writing this right after having finished it. Maybe it’s not a good idea. I feel like I am adrift like the boat when the wind goes out of its sails and it just rocks with the waves. I am not sure what to think about this book. At some levels, I can see the hints of brilliance that people rave about when they discuss Woolf, and at the same time, I feel like I haven’t grasped it just yet, it’s just beyond my reach.

I think part of the problem is the style of writing, which is a mix of stream of consciousness, and the other is that it doesn’t have a linear plot. When we open this book we are met by Mrs. Ramsey with her husband and family of eight children at their vacation home with some friends. The first part of the book is about the day or two they are there and we go from character to character and get a glimpse into their minds, what they are thinking about themselves, about the other people around them and the events occurring. In this way, we get to know who everyone is. All the while, the underlying question is whether going to the lighthouse will be feasible due to the weather.

The second part is about time passing over the years. The house almost becomes a metaphor for the family, reflective of how time has changed the family dynamic as people die, marry, give birth and so on.

Then in the third and final part of the book, the family returns to the house some years later, quite altered, and they make plans to do what they didn’t get a chance to do so many year before.

I know that the lighthouse is supposed to be symbolic of something but I haven’t quite figured it out. Maybe I am completely overthinking this whole book and it really is as simple as it seems.

I think this is a book that you have to read several times to get the full meaning behind it. With each reread, you will uncover another little secret that was held from you before.

As for Woolf’s writing, once I got used to her style, I rather enjoyed reading it. There is no doubt that she has a way with words. You still can picture what is going on around you but you can’t quite put your finger on the underlying current, almost like Lily Briscoe trying to paint the picture of the family but can’t quite get the picture to become clear.

I gave this book three stars, aka a neutral rating, because right now I don’t know what to rate it. This can change as things become more clear to me.


Have you read “To the Lighthouse”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

Review: ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert

It’s not surprising that “Madame Bovary” caused an outrage when it first came out. Nor is it shocking that this book made the rounds and became a classic. Not only was it relevant then, but it remains relevant now.

If you are looking for a happy ending, this is not the book for you. Slowly, we watch Madame Bovary, a young Catholic girl who was raised in a convent, get married to the first man who ever pays her any attention. Call it naivete, youth, whatever, she quickly realizes that she has made a mistake. But being a good Christian wife, she attempts to live with that mistake by being the ultimate good housewife and do her “duty”. However, she becomes bored with her situation, and seeks to fulfill her more romanticized yearnings. She turns to adultery.

You would think that is where her debauchery ends, but no. Her character further declines from lying and deceitful to greedy and vain. She longs for the finer things in life and goes so far as to steal from her husband to get it, making flamboyant purchases, racking up IOUs and paying for her adulterous escapades. Or as we like to say in modern times, keeping up with the Joneses.

It is inevitable that this will all culminate to her ruin. How can it not?

Readers of the 1800s must have been shocked, damn near outraged, that Gustave Flaubert had the audacity to write about the insights of women. How dare he write about a woman who doesn’t love her husband. How dare he assume that bored housewives will inevitably cheat on their husbands. The outrage! The fact that the French government unsuccessfully tried Flaubert for obscenity is quite laughable.

Methinks thou dost protest too much.

Aren’t all stories somewhat based on truth? They were probably mad that someone actually had the chops to actually publicize what everyone already knew. They can no longer put on airs. Flaubert alludes to this as some of the villagers end up blackmailing Bovary to keep her secret. At least Flaubert wrote a fictional story about it, but it must struck a little too close to home for some.

I am pretty sure that this book made the rounds among the populace very quickly and for good reason. Moving away from the plot, Flaubert is known for his writing style, one that he perfected over a grueling number of years and pushed him to be known for ushering in the age of realism in literature.

Although this book was written in 1856, it is notably different from works of the same era. For one thing it was very easy to read as it lacked the dense language that often bog down similar books of the time. Flaubert focuses on telling the story in the most simplest of terms and in a way that everyone can understand. He doesn’t hold punches. And while he has the decorum not to go into intimate detail about Madame’s affairs, he doesn’t allow the reader to interpret it any other way. His descriptive writing doesn’t leave anything to the imagination and you can follow Bovary as if you were her accomplice.

If you didn’t know when this book was written, you would have thought it was written today. Which is why this book stands the test of time. Unfit marriages continue to happen today, and more often than not, the couple realizes they made a mistake and go on their separate ways. Unfortunately some of them don’t end before someone does something hurtful to the other. It is just sad that Bovary’s ending was a bit more tragic.

‘Midnight Sun’ by Stephanie Meyer was unnecessary

When it comes to the Twilight saga, I have always been on Team Edward. So when I heard that Stephanie Meyer wrote a book based on the perspective of Edward, I knew I had to read it. However, when I finally got around to it, I was highly disappointed. The following is probably going to be a rant, probably with spoilers, but I just can’t help it. You have been warned.

There were so many different ways that Stephanie Meyer could have approached Edward’s story and she did it in the laziest way possible – in my opinion. Why, after reading the series, would I want a regurgitation of the same story? Why? I already knew what happened from reading the first book, and if anything, why didn’t she include his perspective when she originally wrote the book – aka multiple perspectives.

She had so many opportunities to tell a different story. One being a prequel – Edward’s life starting when he first became a vampire and going through the years. I mean isn’t he a few hundred years old? He has so many stories to tell. She could have ended the book at the point where he finally meets Bella.

OR

Turning his story into its own trilogy. Again, I am sure he has so many stories to tell from when he first became a vampire. It would have been interesting to know some of the characters he came across over the years, his interactions with the Voltari, his relationships with the Cullens. So many stories.

OR

Continue where Breaking Dawn left off. They are married. A few years have gone by and Edward is reflecting on his life from when he first met Bella to where they are now. Maybe another drama unfolds. Who knows.

While it was interesting to see what Edward thought of things, going through familiar scenes, I couldn’t help but wonder if the dialogue was the same in the first book. It was distracting as it slowed down my reading. Also I couldn’t help but wonder if the events had changed slightly, which further irked me.

I don’t think “Midnight Sun” provided anything drastically different from what we already knew except some snippets into Edward’s thoughts and maybe some revisionist history. Maybe I am being a bit too critical but it just irked me that I read the same story and I don’t think it was necessary.

I told you this was going to be rant, but this left a bad taste in my mouth and I just needed to get rid of it.

‘White Fang’ by Jack London

It’s been years since I watched the Disney movie with Ethan Hawke but though I can only remember random scenes from the movie, the book is much more raw. I couldn’t help comparing this book to “Frankenstein” as the theme of nature vs nurture quickly takes precedent and White Fang’s story unfolds.

The book is primarily about nature and what animals do to survive. The book opens up to two men and their sled team traveling through the wilderness to take their dead companion home. They are followed by a pack of hungry wolves and each night, one by one, the dogs on their sled team are picked off and even one of the men.

Then the narrative turns its attention to the pack and follows a she-wolf and her interactions with the pack until finally she has a litter of pups. Nature rears her cruel head once more as each pup succumbs to hunger until only one survives. That pup is later to be known as “White Fang” when he is captured by an Indian tribe. Here is where the story truly starts as we follow White Fang’s growth, as he learns to survive among the tribe and the other dogs, eventually becoming one of the fiercest dogs. He become vicious and a killer of other dogs because he knows it’s kill or be killed.

His demeanor is further shaped by his interactions with humans until one day, he is suddenly met with a kind hand. And it throws White Fang for a loop as he waits for the punishment that is surely going to come. I couldn’t help but be sad as this is the life that he has been dealt. But when he meets Scott, we are hopeful that White Fang can see that he doesn’t have to live in fear of being punished or where his next meal will come from or having to defend himself against another.

Jack London doesn’t hold back when it comes to describing the cruelty of nature and humans, so the parts about animal cruelty are especially hard to read. All the more reason why I think this book has stood the test of time. Animal cruelty has never gone away and it says something about how it shapes an animal’s demeanor and their interactions with other living things. But there is redemption in this book when White Fang meets Scott and he learns what a gentle hand means. Perhaps that is where you see the most growth in him. If there is one thing that Jack London shows us – whether dog, human or any animal, it’s that our experiences shape who we are and who we become.

I read this book in one sitting and while it is perhaps a young adult novel, I think you can read this at any age and get something out of it.

Review: ‘Broken (in the best possible way)’ by Jenny Lawson

If you want to know about anxiety and depression and how it impacts you mentally and physically, then look no farther than Jenny Lawson. She has a way of taking such a serious topic and writing about it in the most hilarious way.

Lawson takes a lightened attitude when it comes to her mental health because I think she knows that there is nothing she can do about the craziness that is her life other than laugh about it. And while her antics may seem improbable to most, many others probably find themselves relating to her in more ways than one. I know I do.

“Broken (in the best possible way)” follows the same path of her other books – funny anecdotes with a hard mix of reality. However, I found that Lawson opened up a little more in this book about the more serious parts of her disease. Her letter to her insurance company, lamenting about the prescriptions they refuse to cover that keep her from committing suicide, is a real eye opener. It is a cry for everyone who suffers from mental health and has to decide whether to put food on the table or whether to pay for medicine that can keep them alive. While Jenny is lucky to be able to afford the absurd prices, it makes one wonder how many people have succumbed to their disease because they couldn’t afford it.

Lawson also delves more into the demons that plague her – from the cycle of depression that runs so deep that she is bed bound for days, the pharmacy of medications that have a domino affect on her overall health, to her tumultuous relationship with her husband, which she jokes has only been salvaged because she is too lazy to get a divorce. And because she is so honest about her life, it makes me realize that I could have it so much worse.

My husband suffers from anxiety and depression and is also medicated. Once in a while he says that he is glad that I didn’t know him when he wasn’t medicated – that it was really bad. I have seen him once severely depressed due to a lapse in his prescription at the pharmacy and I never want to ever see him that way again. But even though we deal with his ups and downs, we know that there are others – like Lawson – who have it so much worse.

I am glad that Lawson that is so open about what she goes through because whether she knows it or not, she is helping people who are dealing with similar issues. Hell, I may only suffer from anxiety but I find that I can relate to her – I also step out of my shoes, though none have taken a ride in an elevator.


Have you read “Broken”? What did you think? What other books about mental health would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

Review: ‘Project Hail Mary’ by Andy Weir

Imagine waking up, hooked up to a bunch of tubes, not knowing where you are, how you got there or why. That is how you feel when you first crack open Andy Weir’s latest book, “Project Hail Mary,” because that is how we find the main character, Ryland.

Ryland wakes up in what seems to be a medical unit, being cared for by a robotic machine. However, after a few days of slowly coming out of the lethargic fog that he woke up in, Ryland takes a precursory glance around to deduce that he is on a space craft on a mission. What that mission is has yet to be known, but he knows that it must have been super important. As he struggles to regain his full memory, Ryland tries to move forward with the mission.

This was my first Andy Weir book and I was immersed from the first page. I have never had any aspirations to go to space so the fact that we are joining Ryland on this journey was a nail biter for me. Not only does Ryland not know what he is supposed to do, he is alone, so it’s like learning a new job on the fly. I couldn’t help but hold my breath every time that he touched an unknown button or did something that was clearly not a good idea. Luckily, although Ryland’s memory is hazy, he realizes quickly that many of the things on the ship come easy to him, helping him conclude that he has some type of background.

This book can get a little technical with the scientific terms and the numeric calculations, but it didn’t hinder my understanding of what was going on or what Ryland was trying to do. I was more than happy to let him drive the ship so long as we didn’t crash or he didn’t die. But then I got to thinking – could this actually be possible? Could we build a ship that was able to travel so many light years away and survive?

Are we alone in this universe? It is the age-old question that there is still no clear answer for. Yet, Weir would have us believe that not only is the answer a resounding no, but we can communicate with them and live with them despite our differences.

I loved the relationship between Ryland and Rocky and how the two work on each other’s strengths to get the job done.

I liked the way that Weir used flashbacks to flesh out the story as well as Ryland’s character. Sometimes in books, the flash backs are random but not here. Ryland will look at a piece of paper and what may seem like numeric garble at first, suddenly triggers a memory of him working in a lab on Earth and looking at similar numbers.

I am not one to read science fiction, which is probably why it has taken me so long to pick up one of Weir’s books, but this book was a fast read and thoroughly enjoyable. Now I can’t wait to pick up the “Martian”, which I have heard nothing but good things about.


Have you read “Project Hail Mary”? What did you think? What other Weir books would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ by Julia Quinn

The second book in the Bridgerton series was just as delightful as “The Duke and I”. Since Daphne is off and married, it is now Anthony’s turn.

Anthony is the oldest of the Bridgerton clan taking care of the estate that his father left behind. It occurs to Anthony that he must get married if he is going to provide an heir. However, he doesn’t want to marry for love for his own personal reasons. A simple wife with whom he can respect but isn’t too dependent upon him will do just fine. He has his sights on Edwina Sheffeld, a beautiful woman who has many admirable suitors. But then Anthony meets Edwina’s sister Kate, who is determined not to let her sister marry the biggest rake there ever was.

I loved the love-hate dynamic between Anthony and Kate. It is every entertaining and you can’t help but keep turning the pages only to find out what happens between the two of them. I found the events that unfold between the two highly comical, especially the scene where the two are chasing after Kate’s Corgi through the town and end up in the lake. I could picture the whole scene in my head and couldn’t help but chuckle out loud.

I also liked how Quinn develops Anthony’s character. His father dies at an age when Anthony can use his wisdom the most and it effects him in a way that it doesn’t the others in his family. His father’s death further goes to shape how he lives his life and who he plans to marry. That is, until Kate shows up and throws a wrench into his plans.

If you love the banter between the Bridgerton clan in the first book, you will not be disappointed as it appears in this book as well. In the “The Duke and I” the banter between the siblings comes during more serious moments, whereas in this book, we catch the family just having pure fun. Though I am not sure if the Bridgerton’s annual Pall Mall game would be considered fun since its a highly competitive game. However, as the reader just observing, one can’t help but laugh at it all. If anything this made me love the family all the more.

And of course, we can’t forget Lady Whistledown, which I think is the secret star of the books. I realized after posting my review for the “Duke and I” that I had completely left her out of the review and I can’t believe it. She is what makes the books even more enjoyable. Her gossip column about the goings on of the members of the Ton sets up each of the chapters and you can’t help but wait with baited breath, like each of the characters, as they see what Lady Whistledown has to say about a particular event. However, we don’t know who Lady Whistledown is yet, though if you watched the Netflix show, it has probably been spoiled (I can’t believe they did that!) Though I can’t help but wonder if she/he is the same person in the book as the person they made Whistledown to be in the show.

Anyway, if you are wondering whether you should continue on with the series, I would have to say yes. You don’t necessarily have to read “The Duke and I” to read “The Viscount Who Loved Me” to understand Anthony’s story. However, there are mentions of a few things that happened in the first book. Though you can always go back later.


Have you read “The Viscount Who Loved Me”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

‘The Duke and I’ by Julia Quinn

So I wasn’t going to get on the “Bridgerton” train but thanks to boredom, I ended up watching the Netflix show about a month or so ago. And of course, I loved it. I didn’t even know it was a book series until I began seeing all the blog posts about the first book and the comparisons to the show. Well, because the book is (almost) always better than the movie/show, I couldn’t help reading the first book.

I was rather surprised by how closely aligned to the book the show is in regards to Daphne and Simon’s storyline. I really liked how Quinn set up these two characters. Simon is a duke who swears never to marry to spite his father who hated him and Daphne, debutante who is looking is on the marriage market, searching for her husband. These two characters couldn’t be more different if they tried. They end up using these difference for a common purpose. Of course things don’t necessarily work out the way they planned but alas, does it ever?

I have come to rather like the Bridgerton family very much and the banter between the siblings. They are a close family and I enjoyed their family dynamic. However, I noticed upon reading the book, that Quinn doesn’t get too much into the background of the other characters in the first book, whereas the Netflix show does. I think the show is going to follow the books so that each seasons will follow a different Bridgerton, but with some storyline around these characters already outlined in the first season, it will be interesting to see how the show begins to veer away from the books, as I am sure that it is bound to happen.

What the book provides that the show doesn’t is a little more insight into Simon’s character and what is going through his mind about his decisions. While the show did a good job of showing us why Simon’s character is the way he is, there is something to be said about reading a characters thoughts in the moment, especially when it came to Daphne’s character.

Overall I enjoyed the book and have since bought several of the others in the series. As you know, I am not one to follow through with a series but alas, I need to find out what happens to each of the Bridgerton clan.


Have you read “Bridgerton: The Duke and I”? Have you seen the show? Which did you like better? Let’s discuss!