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This year just has a theme, apparently: reading a lot but feeling like I’m not reading a lot. It’s weird. Maybe it’s because I work from home so I have more time and I feel like I should be reading more. Maybe it’s not. Who knows.
I’m finally out of my travel book reading slump. I haven’t wanted to read them in so long but I’m plowing through them right now and I love it! Mostly.
I read some really good books in May and I read some really, really terrible ones. I suffered through two terrible ones because I’m too curious sometimes, and I DNF’d one.
I’ve made a lot of progress on scheduling posts here which I haven’t wanted to do for a little too long but I feel back on track now and am excited to share it all here.
I crossed off a few from the lists I’ve published this year and my own TBR. So, here is everything I read in May: the great, the not-so-great, and the truly terrible.
- If you want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! You can get your first month free (one free book) plus tons of others they have for free. Get that Audible deal here.
- If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd! You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot.
- If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option. It’s $9.99 a month but if you read a lot and like to read more than just new releases, it could be worth it. Get Kindle Unlimited here!
- Get $5 off of $25 from BookOutlet! This is a great place to find new books for pretty cheap. They also have sales quite a bit, so keep an eye out for those. I tend to check here for books I want if they’re more expensive other places. They don’t have everything but they do have a lot. Get that deal here.
- Thrift Books has become my go-to when I’m looking for a book and want it cheap. It’s great if you like buying used books. With this you can get a free book after spending $30!
- Shop my book lists here! You can find every book list I have on Bookshop.org (except my monthly round-ups) and I add everything I can but they occasionally won’t have some. I do occasionally add extras though. If any lists are empty, they’ll be filled in shortly! Shop my bookshop.org book lists here.
Author: Ryan Casseau
Genre: Adventure memoir
About the book: After ten years of dreaming, at 24, Ryan set out for the most remote jungle he could find which happened to be in Papua New Guinea. He left home alone and without any contacts in his future home. The purpose of the trip wasn’t just adventure but to research plants to be used as medicine. Its part adventure, part reflection, and the only thing that gets in his way is everything.
Final thoughts: I really liked this one! I love reading about places that don’t get visited much and Papua New Guinea is one of those. It was part adventure, part reflection and I just really enjoyed this one. I would like to read more about travel in Papua New Guinea now.
Author: Hilary Weisman Graham
Genre: YA contemporary
About the book: Alice, Summer, and Tiernan were best friends but when Level3, their favorite band, broke up, so did they. But just after graduation, the band announced a one-time reunion show in Austin, Texas.
Alice buys three tickets hoping her ex-best friends would agree to go with her. Turns out they both have their own reasons to get out of town so they hit the road in Alice’s graduation gift, a 1976 pea-green VW camper van called the Pea Pod. They hit a few bumps in the road as they find out if their friendship is really over or if they will get an encore.
Final thoughts: This was another one I enjoyed. It was a fun, light read so if you go into it with expectations of a fun summer read, then it’s a good one. I did think the whole getting into a ton of New Orleans bars thing was weird but I’ve never been there so I don’t know how realistic that is. But it’s fiction so also, whatever. It’s a fun road trip book.
Author: Evelyn Kohl LaTorre
Genre: Peace Corps memoir
About the book: Evelyn is twenty-one and naive about life and love. She grew up in a small town in Montana and then moved to California with her devout Catholic family where she is drawn to Latino culture.
Over the summer of her junior year in college, she helps set up a school and library in a small town in Mexico. After graduation, she joins the Peace Corps to work on community development in the Peruvian Andes.
She and her roommate Marie work on projects to improve the community while adjusting to life with few amenities. She even falls in love with a university student forcing her to choose between following the religious rules of her youth and giving in to her sexual desires.
Final thoughts: From GoodReads: I liked the first half a lot which felt like what Nancy Drew would be like if she was in the peace corps instead of a detective but the second half got very annoying with all the on and off relationship stuff. I’m glad things worked out in the end but this was more relationship than peace corps (I think) and I would have preferred it the other way. I did mostly enjoy it.
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Genre: YA post-apocalyptic
About the book: This is book four and I don’t want to spoil anything from the rest of the series.
Final thoughts: There are no spoilers in this rant of mine. From GoodReads: This was certainly a book. The first 160 pages are awful. I almost quit reading more than once but pushed through because it was easy and I had to know. After that, it wasn’t as bad but it was still not good. Jon is uhh, not great in any way. So much in this didn’t make sense because it’s ONLY FOUR YEARS LATER! I would expect a society like this 50+ years later but it just didn’t make sense. This did not do it for me. I would stick to the first two and maybe the third but yikes.
Side note: Do you consider dystopian and post-apocalyptic the same thing? How do you differentiate them?
Author: Scott Nelson
Genre: South America travel
Rating: Generous 2.5/5
About the book: This is a pre-cellphone tale of travels of a Kiwi couple through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia as they ride through the Andes in search of the “Authentic Backpacking Experience™.”
Final thoughts: From GoodReads: There were SO many typos in this, it really bothered me. And at least three times things were written like “try’na” which also just felt weird, like he was trying to write his accent, but only sometimes. And we only got a quick mention in a sentence about the death road and the Galapagos!? That’s it?! This was entertaining enough but I wouldn’t consider this a guide in any way whatsoever and would choose a lot of other travel books over this one.
Author: Peter Moore
Genre: Central America travel
Rating: 1/5 (DNF)
About the book:
Peter Moore invited the new love of his life to join him on a romantic sojourn through Central America. She jumps at the chance and for the next six months, they battle hurricanes, mosquitos, border officials, and they learned more about each other than they really wanted to. These are the highs and lows of their journey into the unknown.
Final thoughts: From GoodReads: DNF. I barely got through El Salvador. I love Central America and had high hopes for this but I couldn’t even finish it
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Genre: YA post-apocalyptic
About the book: This is the third book in the series and I don’t want to spoil anything.
Final thoughts: I liked this enough but I really didn’t care for the middle that much. I was just annoyed a lot by the way everyone was acting. **SPOILERS AFTER THIS** Like, Matt literally just goes away for a week and comes home married? What? Why won’t Alex think for like two seconds about not sending his sister away? After spending like ten minutes together he and Miranda fall in love? Ok.
About the book: This is the second book in the series but has different characters so no spoilers in this description.
Final thoughts: I didn’t like this as much as the first book but I did like seeing the perspective of the first year from a major city where problems would be different and would be handled differently. While I enjoyed the third book, enough, I would almost consider stopping here. Or maybe read the third but only the fourth if you just need to know how things change (or how bad it actually is.)
Author: John H. Rydzewski
Genre: Travel memoir
Rating: Very generous 2/5
About the book: For nearly three years, John lived and worked in Dalian, China. These are the stories from his time exploring the country and experiencing all the strange things he learned and saw along the way.
Final thoughts: Boooooooooo. I would leave it at that but it needs more context. This isn’t just like, boring or not enjoyable but it feels creepy. Buckle up because this is long, creepy, gross, and offensive. Imagine 🤢 that emoji after almost all of these.
From GoodReads: This is a very generous 2/5. Anything in quotes is a direct quote (probably without some of the punctuation because I was making notes on my phone as I read before bed). I didn’t take anything out of context, it’s all actually this weird.
Things I didn’t like: Referring to every Chinese woman as a girl and cutie, excessively long lists: an ENTIRE PAGE of airlines. Almost TWO pages listing every specific market good to see next time in the Christmas city. FOR WHY!? And sources in the book, like In the middle of everything, not just the end of chapters. Who cares about the Boracay hotel website in a book!? Also, there are quite a few typos.
And most of all, it felt creepy for the following unfortunate number of quotes: following up a girl named kinky with “speaking of long and hard”
Talking about flight attendants: “leggy Korean” flight attendants, “blonde hair and blue eyes can make up for deficiencies in other areas”, “the long haul flights are very attractive and in high demand. The catch is, the flight attendants who choose those flights aren’t.” “If airlines are looking to save money, they should replace all the over priced, over age, over weight, and over cranky US based flight attendants with young, friendly, and attractive Asians.”
Here is a slightly abbreviated version of his list of reasons all flight attendants should be Asian (I, unfortunately am not making any of this up and anything here is a direct quote and … indicates a sentence not as relevant to the creepiness):
- “The skies will once again be friendlier and younger. It would be nice to step onto a plane and be greeted by a pretty, smiling face rather than…well, you know. Happy customers become repeat customers.”
- “Asian flight attendants would probably be paid less than their American counterparts but more than their native peers. This would encourage plenty of Asian women to become flight attendants, ensuring a constant supply of new talent when some realize it’s not for them.”
- “On one trans-pacific flight from Seoul to San Francisco, I estimated the cumulative weight of the flight attendants to be about one gross ton, with emphasis on both “gross” and “ton.” … Asian Flight attendants are, on average, smaller than US-based flight attendants. The lighter an airplane, the less fuel the plane consumes.”
- “Lighter flight attendants will be beneficial to the environment because using less fuel also means less jet exhaust, a reduction In greenhouse gases, and slowing of global warming, which will slow the melting of the polar icee caps.” …
- “Smaller flight attendants will also help fight globe terrorism, since using less fuel means less money in the pockets of the oil-rich nations that tend to host the fundamentalist groups responsible for senseless killings around the world.”
Talking about learning Chinese: “of course, the tried and true method was to find a cute little BHD. BHD? Black haired dictionary for those not in the know.” “Maggie was a high school math teacher by day and a cute little bar girl by night.”
Talking about hostess bars in Chinatown Singapore: “in no time at all we saw the tell tale signs: a dozen or so small dark taverns along duxton road with dessert lingering outside and trying their best to lure us into their establishments.”
Talking about Santa: “what man in his right mind would want to live in the dark Six months each year with penguins and polar bears when he could live in a warmer climate with a seemingly infinite supply of petite Chinese girls at his beck and call? In China portly unshaven white guys with gray hair can easily score with the cuties since those are signs of wealth not age.”
Talking about TSA officials, taking a note from the dalian city traffic cop models: “instead of skirts, the Chinese airport security cities are dressed in black battle dress uniforms like those more commonly seen by a SWAT or special ops team, combat boots, and a wide webbed Nelson belt cinched right to accentuate their femininity. Hot.” “Ever since, I would scope out the cutest metal detector girl. On occasion I would chat with her for a few seconds while she’s up close and personal during the full body pat down not knowing whether I should leave a tip, ask her out, or for a cigarette when she was done.”
Talking about boracay being postcard perfect: “with its sandy beach lined with palm trees waving in the sea breeze, warm turquoise waters, and more nubile Filipinas in various flavors of hotness and cuteness (bikinis, miniskirts, hot pants, skimpy whatever) than one could shake their stick at.”
Talking about a short vacation so he didn’t check a bag: “if I did check a bag, that would have given me a reason to hang out in the baggage claim area of the sanya airport to check out the large crowd of pretty Chinese girls who were waiting for their luggage.”
Not even half a page later: “as I passed by the baggage claim area and headed toward the waiting taxis, I realized that the crowd of cuties in confirmed what I had expected when I noticed a quite large number of pretty Chinese girls on my flight from Shanghai.”
Two sentences after that, same page: “sanya was going to be a magical place with bikini clad Chinese nymphets frolicking on the beaches and in the pools.”
“The multitude of scantily clad Chinese nymphets I was expecting was nowhere to be found at the hotel or on the beach.”
At the fish nibbling spa: “…I started to realize that I should have known better than to expect to find those Chinese nymphets exposing themselves in the sun.”
Preparing to run a literal marathon: “…I began to default to the tried and true method of finishing a long distance race: pace a few feet behind the cutest girl, and hopefully pick one that didn’t have a boyfriend/husband/girlfriend…”
“Dalian put on its Sunday best that morning: clear blue skies, bright sunshine, city streets devoid of cars and buses but lined with the police hotties.”
In the flat Stanley letter he wanted to write: “…I met some Chinese cuties that wanted to keep me warm all winter. The last place I expected to get yellow fever was in northern China but the Chinese variant of the disease can be very very serious. Don’t let your daddy’s company send home to China alone lest he get sick with yellow fever and kick your mommy out of the house when he returns.”
I will say, after the really terrible Flat Stanley chapter it did get better and none of these quotes are from after that but the first half really made this not so enjoyable.
Author: Ged Gillmore
Genre: Travel memoir
About the book: Ged pictures himself as the ideal blend of Indiana Jones and James Bond. Indiana Bond, if you will. So the idea of an organized bus tour is not very appealing but to experience the wonders of Central Asia in three weeks he doesn’t have much choice. This is a fun travel memoir full of unexpected experiences.
Final thoughts: I don’t think I realized this was about an organized tour when I got it and was a little worried when I did find that out, but I actually really enjoyed this one.
Central Asia is so high on my bucket list and I’ll read any travel book set there and I’m glad I finally picked this one up. It’s not super adventurous but it’s fun and educational. I liked it a lot.
Author: Roman Dial
Genre: Adventure Memoir?
About the book: On July 10, 2014, Cody Roman Dial went hiking alone in Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park, an untracked rainforest home to miners, poachers, and smugglers.
He emailed his father: “I am not sure how long it will take me, but I’m planning on doing 4 days in the jungle and a day to walk out. I’ll be bounded by a trail to the west and the coast everywhere else, so it should be difficult to get lost forever.”
These were the last words his father received from his son. As soon as his return date passed with no word, Roman set off for Costa Rica.
He trekked through the jungle, interviewed locals, and searched for clues -the authorities suspected murder- and faced the deepest questions about himself and his role in the events.
Note that the disappearance and search don’t start until the last chapter of part 2. The first 44% of this is more adventure memoir.
Final thoughts: From GoodReads: Probably 3.5 but there are two things that bothered me with this. I will start off saying though, that I can’t even imagine going through this, it’s a real actual fear of mine, so I feel for the family on that and my complaints have nothing to do with the way they handled or did anything.
1. From the description it sounds like this will be entirely about his son disappearing and the search. It’s not. The first FORTY FOUR PERCENT is stories from the authors adventure past and a couple chapters about the sons time in Central America before Costa Rica. I read the first few chapters but that’s not what I’m here for. With a different description this might not have bothered me so much but this is barely over half about what the description says.
If all you want to read is about the disappearance and search, skip to the last chapter in part two.
Once it got into the disappearance and search though, I was hooked!
Also, why is this called the adventurers son if they’re both adventurers? That feels weird.
2. The author, a BIOLOGIST and BIOLOGY PROFESSOR called snakes poisonous TWICE. they’re not poisonous! Snakes are venomous (if it bits you and you die, it’s venomous. If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous.). Then he says juvenile snakes are more dangerous because they can’t control their venom release which is false and has been proven false. A BIOLOGIST! Ugh
Have you read any of these? Which ones? What did you read in May?