Book Report – January 2018

To keep me accountable on my monthly reading goal for 2018, I want to share my brief review of each book I read each month (3 on average). Hopefully this will also help those of you who are always on the lookout to add to your TBR (To Be Read) list. Consider me your enabler, dealer, and fellow junkie all in one.


For January I read one new non-fiction book, the third book in a fiction series, and one beloved classic I felt like revisiting. In that order, here they are:

(I participate in Amazon’s Associate program. Using my links to purchase their products may generate a small commission for me–Thanks!–though it will cost you nothing extra. This consideration does not influence my reviews, which are honestly given.)

The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea (@Urrealism)

In short: Relevant themes. Intense. Honest.
Warnings: Morbid. Non-linear narrative. Adult language (mostly en español).
Who should read: Anyone wanting to inform themselves about border issues. People interested in true stories.

This Pulitzer Prize finalist is a true account, told as honestly and unflinchingly as possible, of a group of immigrants who tried to cross into the US through some of the deadliest terrain in the country. They got lost along the way and about half of them perished in the unbearable heat. Through interviews, survivor accounts, and various documentation, Urrea recreates their dangerous journey and offers glimpses into what drove them to take such a risk.

I had the privilege of hearing and meeting Luis at the writing camp I attended at Wallowa Lake last year. (Hello, Fishtrap friends! *waves*) His impeccable delivery and apt comedic timing impressed and entertained me, so I snagged a couple of his books after his talk and got them signed. To read this book, you would not believe such a writer to be so incredibly funny, but he handles darkness with just as much skill. I cannot say “with as much ease,” because it cannot have been easy to write about such weighty matters. It is also uncomfortable to read, but that may be all the more reason for reading it.

In this work he maintains–with considerable effort, I imagine–the distance of a reporter but enriches it with human interest, so it rarely comes out dry (horridly morbid pun: unintended). If you’re not used to having an author jump to different points in time or change perspectives frequently, this narrative style may befuddle you a bit, but it is well-done. Forgetting small details (like the many names of people and places) does not detract from the story, and Urrea is usually merciful enough to give you context and remind you why certain details are meaningful. I am not the most attentive reader, yet I had no trouble keeping up, and my attention rarely wandered (second horridly morbid pun: likewise unintended).

Overall, a very worthy read indeed.

Voyager: A Novel (Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG)

In short: Historical. Romantic. Action-packed.
Warnings: Third in series. Adult themes. Slow-ish beginning.
Who should read: Fans of the Outlander book/TV series. Historical romance readers (high- and low-brow alike). Readers who like a lot of action and aren’t scared of a thick spine.


I have very much enjoyed every installment of the Outlander series. They’re romantic without resorting to a lot of silly swooning and bodice-ripping (fun as those things are). They weave in history without being boring. They’re exciting, and I see no reason why men couldn’t enjoy these books just as well as women.

This third book is very much “the same thing, only different.” Gabaldon manages to recreate the same feel every time, while allowing her characters to grow and without recycling the same old story. Voyager does take a little longer to warm up to its tale (It has to go over a lot of personal history.), and there are times when I wanted to skip ahead to the reunion of the main characters, but only because I love them together so much, not because their individual stories weren’t interesting. There are lots of loose ends dropped throughout that maintain the suspense strongly enough to keep you reading.

But when they finally do reunite (You knew they would, c’mon, there are 8 of these things, and she’s working on the ninth.), the pace picks up considerably. Big as these books are, I tear through them, often losing track of time entirely in my absorption. The Outlander series is well-written, with well-crafted sentences that do not come across as “purple,” or flowery.

In fact, here’s a hilarious 2-minute animated clip of Gabaldon constructing a single sentence. It’s a wonder she wrote these giants in the short amount of time she did.

(For my review of the first book, which I read last year, see Fave Reads from 2017.)

Persuasion (Penguin Classics) (Physical book – Amazon)
Persuasion (FREE digital copy – Project Gutenberg)

In short: AMAZING. Romantic. Character-driven.
Warnings: Other men in your life will now pale in comparison to Captain Wentworth.
Who should read: Literature lovers. Austen fans. Students of true love.

Okay, so, in case you haven’t caught on, this will be less a review and more of a love letter to a book (much like the one our heroine, Anne Elliot, receives *swoon*). I love this book so much that I agreed to read aloud all the Harry Potter books to my husband in exchange for reading him this one Jane Austen novel. Sadly, he didn’t catch my fervor, although he did agree the letter is indubitably the best part. (He’s not wrong there, but the rest is great, too.)

I, like so many of my sex and profession, admire Lady Jane greatly. My admiration began with Pride & Prejudice (required for AP English) and then carried over to Sense & Sensibility (read on my own, for fun). I’ve read all her works more than once, some half a dozen times. I could no sooner pick a favorite dessert than I could pick a favorite among these three books in particular. Each has a special place in my heart. Each has a delightful cast of characters sure to amuse the people-watchers among us; beautiful, lighthearted language; and, yes, a romantic plot to tease and please everyone, even men. (“I speak, you know, only of such men as have hearts!”)

Yes, it’s old-timey. Yes, the central question revolves around whether or not two people will become romantically linked by the end. Yet, this is so much more than a mere “rom-nov.” I read and re-read these works, begging them to unfold their secrets to me. How did she write such thrilling stories that endure? How did she create such rich characters who pop off the page, to the point that I could tell who was speaking without her telling me? Why do they resonate with a perfect pitch that seems to hum on forever like a church bell?

I may never know, but I will keep revisiting each one of her works, hoping for another crumb to drop from their banquet table. I don’t want to be Jane, but if her muse is ever looking for a new writer to whisper story ideas to, I want it to know I’m an excellent listener who always carries a pen.


8 thoughts on “Book Report – January 2018

  1. I appreciate the warnings on #1. As an HSP, I’ll likely skip it.
    I’m still scared of #2 but less so having caught up on a book-induced lack of sleep resulting from an amazing series.
    And #3… YAAASS! Clearly, Ryan got the better end of the deal. I’d read about anything to have the entirety of Harry Potter read to me. I do need to reread Northanger Abbey as I read it a year or two ago and really liked it. I’m not sure it can compete with those three though. It may be on a completely different field.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. It’s not an easy read for the tender-hearted. I had trouble not getting too into it.

      NA is very different from the others. They’re all good, but it didn’t stick with me the way the others did. You can tell it was an earlier work. But she was already perfecting her leading man formula, even then. Mr. Tilney is a lesser-known favorite among Austen fans. 😄

      PS: I do all the voices when I read. My Hermione is pretty spot-on, I’d say. 😜 I’ve often wanted to get into audiobook reading/acting, but I lack contacts and tech savvy, I think. Too bad, I think it’d be great fun.


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