The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Despite seeing The Vacationers by Emma Straub on many fiction recommendation lists, I’ve also heard from many of my friends that they couldn’t finish it. Despite these non-recommendations, I decided to take a swing at it myself. Warning – there are a few spoilers in this review, nothing to give away the whole plot, but enough to explain my review.

The Vacationers runs pretty much how one would expect based off the title. This is the story of the Posts, a family traveling on a predictable vacation and while being cooped together, drama inevitably arises.

What disappointed me the most about this book was how predictable each character is. First there’s the moody teenage daughter who is uncomfortable in her own skin and thus criticizes everyone else throughout the entire trip. Then you have the verging on 30-year-old son who is not only an immature bimbo, but he has gotten himself $150,000 dollars in debt. Next up we have the father, who so predictably cheated on his wife with the blonde (of course she is) 23-year-old assistant at his office. Lastly, there’s the mother. Cheery Franny puts on a brave face in front of her children while giving her husband the cold shoulder (rightfully so) behind closed doors.

As with most family vacations, the characters were forced to spend time together and to face their problems. In a feel good ending, the Post family finds their way back to each other. All in all, a fine story, but I did get through to the end of the book and that’s worth something.

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National Book Lovers Day

Happy National Book Lovers Day from Washington State, USA. In honor of this lovely (and cheesy) celebration, I want to share 10 of my all time favorite books. These are stories that have stuck with me over the years, revisiting during idle moments.

  • The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
  • The Girl with the Dragon tattoo – Stieg Larsson
  • The Kitchen House – Kathleen Grissom
  • The Chaperone – Laura Moriarty
  • Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
  • A Hundred Summers – Beatriz Williams
  • Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
  • Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
  • Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Book reviews on these stories to come! How are you all showing your love for books today?

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

Don’t judge this book by its shabby cover, like the ones found on communal shelves of cozy B&B’s around the world. A bit slow to start, Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy is a good book that kept me going through all 596 pages of it.

This was the first novel of Binchy’s that I have read and it won’t be the last. Binchy does a great job of developing characters across a wide range of ages, personalities and social classes in the mid-1900’s in Ireland.

The story begins with Eve and Benny, opposites in appearance, parentage, and personalities, and yet they become inseparable friends. One, an orphan, and the other, a smothered only child, head to university in Dublin, only a bus ride away from their small country hometown. At university the two girls are quickly swept into a circle of friends (hence the book title). The plot quickly becomes tangled with romance and heartbreak, ambition and failure, loyalty and betrayal. Binchy does a great job of bringing the characters to life, so much so that I was rooting for the fiercely loyal duo the whole way through.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

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To be honest, I wanted to like this book more than I did. After hearing many positive reviews, some even claiming this to be the best fiction book of the year, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. Despite being a well-written story with thorough descriptions and a twisting plotline, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, was not as engaging as I had hoped.

This is the story of Frances, a woman living with her mother just outside of London in the 1920’s following World War I. After several tragic family losses, the two women must take on boarders to bring in much-needed income. With these boarders comes a whirlwind of forbidden love, drama, and decisions that they quickly realize cannot be reversed.

While I admire Frances as a strong character who has given up a life to support her mother, I became frustrated with her decisions later on in the book. Frances and her fellow characters repeatedly made selfish decisions and refused to take responsibility for them; resulting in what I feel to be a weakened story.

Despite my personal displeasure with this story, it is one of forbidden love and shows us the toll that guilt can take on a person.