For the past several weeks, I had the opportunity to spend some time away from home. I attended the four-week Denver Publishing Institute program at the University of Denver in pursuit of changing careers. I learned so much about the book publishing industry and am extremely grateful for all the people I met and connected with while I was there.
While my reading was slowed down a bit by lectures, editorial homework, and general sight-seeing, I thought I would share some recaps of the books I DID manage to finish in July as well as some of my travel experiences!
Before I even left for Colorado, I spent a weekend with some friends in Provincetown, MA where I was able to finish this fun thriller on the beach. I picked this up after seeing it all over instagram (Thanks Reese Witherspoon!) and had a lot of fun speeding through it. There are some aspects of the plot that make you want to yell in frustration over the narrator’s naivete, but that was actually part of the fun – knowing that the characters were getting in too deep before they realized it themselves. This is a fun, suspenseful novel that is easily read over a few days lounging at the beach and I’d highly recommend it!
On my way home, I started my next summer read: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. I’ve been a fan of Pessl’s work since her first novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and so I was thrilled to see that she had a new book release since it had been several years since her last book.
Neverworld Wake is her first foray into YA fiction and definitely a bit more in the realm of fantasy than her last two books. I was lucky enough to meet Pessl at BookCon in June and she shared with me at the signing that she meant for this book to be a fast-paced read to be finished in a day or two. I felt her description was on point – the story is a bit more out of my typical fiction choices, but I loved her blend of fantasy and YA thriller. There’s a dreamlike quality to the entire story and Pessl is the master of writing memorable characters. Fans of her other two books won’t be disappointed by this one!
In preparation of my travel day to Colorado, I decided to pick up Kristin Hannah‘s The Great Alone – both for the theme and the length (I wanted a book that would last me two flights and a layover). I kept seeing rave reviews about this one and so I added it on as an “extra” to my June BOTM pick.
Despite it’s length, this was actually a pretty fast read for me. I absolutely fell in love with Hannah’s descriptions of Alaska and I felt so personally connected to Leni that I had a hard time letting this book go even after I finished the last page.
This is NOT a light read – it deals with a lot of heavy issues (alcoholism, depression, physical/emotional abuse), but Hannah has a knack for balancing the darkness with real beauty and so the story is not as devastating to read through quickly as say Yanagihara’s A Little Life.
I’m now a Kristin Hannah fan and can’t wait to read her other novels!
After finishing The Great Alone and an intense first week at DPI, I decided to change gears and pick up a fun, semi sci-fi thriller for my first weekend in Denver.
No joke – I finished this in ONE DAY! I was able to spend an entire afternoon lounging in an Adirondack chair on campus in order to speed my way through The Anomaly. The descriptions of this being a mashup between Indiana Jones and the X-Files are spot on. While this is definitely part horror story, the plot is so unique and thrilling that defining it as horror doesn’t do the book justice. I only hope that this will be made into a film because I’m dying to see how someone interprets all the descriptions of the creepy cave creatures on screen.
Between some of the crazy weather we ended up experiencing during my second week and the heavy amount of homework I received, I wasn’t able to spend another weekend outdoors reading. Instead, I squeezed in time where I could to finish my other June BOTM pick – The Book of Essie.
This turned out to be a much heavier novel than anticipated, but so beautifully written that I found myself taking more time to savor it (despite it’s shorter length). There were aspects to the plot that I didn’t originally anticipate, but that really added to the novel in the end and I appreciated the story even more because of those details (I’m being vague to avoid spoilers!).
While religion obviously plays a huge role in the book, this is more of a serious family drama that’s heavy on characterization. Maclean Weir really does a stunning job of demonstrating how broken people use religion to hide behind to avoid responsibility without ever sounding “preachy” and I’m excited to see what she writes next.
I bought a book (duh) after attending an event at one of the Tattered Cover locations in Denver for DPI. I brought plenty to read with me in my luggage, but kept seeing this book all over social media and used the 15% DPI discount as an excuse to get my own copy.
The Ruin started a bit slow for me and I initially had a hard time getting into the story. Luckily, things picked up after a few chapters and I finally started to feel more connected to the characters and the interconnected plots.
I can see why McTiernan’s debut has been compared to Tana French, but I found The Ruin to be a bit weaker with characterization than French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. She does make up for it with her storyline, but I would worry that readers might be disappointed by the book as a whole if their expectations are to discover the next Dublin Murder Squad series.
As far as police procedurals go, this is definitely one of my recent favorites and I’m anticipating some growth in characterization in the next book in the series!
Just for fun, here are some photos from my visit to the Tattered Cover:
After DPI finished, I spent some time traveling around Colorado! First stop, The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (yes, the hotel that Stephen King stayed in and got his inspiration for The Shining from). It was beautiful by day, but definitely a little creepy at night.
During my stay, I took advantage of the location to make a day trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming.
A huge breakfast burrito was consumed about 30 minutes after this photo was taken:
Perhaps it was pure luck, but after wandering around the small downtown area, I found a pour-your-own-beer brewery – my first experience with one!
After checking out of the Stanley, I spent a day at Rocky Mountain National Park. The pictures don’t do it justice – everything was breathtaking (despite being caught in a hail storm for a little while!)
After Estes Park came a few days in Boulder. While most of the time was spent hanging out in the Pearl Street Mall area, I had snagged an adorable studio cabin about 15 minutes outside of downtown. Unreliable wifi meant guaranteed reading time.
I also made a few trips to the Boulder Bookstore, but kept the book buying to a minimum since I already had two full boxes of (free!) books to ship back home thanks to DPI.
Since books go well with tea just as much as beer, I made a trip to Celestial Seasonings for a tour and free samples. I now have plenty of tea to balance my craft beer intake for the next few months!
My final day consisted of an evening back in Denver’s downtown district for some beer, a Rockies game, and one final trip to a Tattered Cover bookstore location.
I am forever grateful to have spent so much time in such a beautiful state! I gained so much from my time at DPI and am hoping I can now use my time back at home to land a new position in the book publishing world. Cheers!