Throwback Thursday Title: Educated By Tara Westover

I’m trying a new feature on the blog. Each Thursday, I’m going to dig into my reading archives to feature a relevant backlist title. As students are heading back to the classroom (or onto their computers for distance learning), I thought it would be good to look back on a title that focuses on what schooling really means.

I listened to Educated by Tara Westover as an audiobook and found that to be a great way to take in the story. While not narrated by the author, I think the audiobook provides good insight into the memoir. This book was a hard listen. It reveals the difficult upbringing and educational transformation of Westover. That upbringing involved mental and emotional abuse by a mentally ill, survivalist father and physical and emotional abuse by a sibling. Submission by her mother to her father’s will added insult to injury, leaving Tara and her siblings at the mercy of their unstable father. The memoir looks at the issue of reality and whose reality is accurate. It also shows the eye-opening growth of Tara from an unschooled mountain child to a well educated and “whole” woman with a Ph.D from Harvard.

The book is also a good investigation into the relationship between learning and schooling. Westover shows that her education wasn’t just in a classroom, but in the mountains and fields of her hometown, a hardscrabble learning experience that formed her character and her ambitions to gain a traditional education that helped transform her outlook on truth and the wider world.

I can’t say the book was enjoyable, but it was a fascinating look at the psychological mind games and emotional manipulation Tara says she endured. Her story seems fantastical, but credible; something you don’t realize happens in modern society. It looks at a unique pocket of America that relies on home cures, home schooling, and extreme versions of Mormon faith to create what they think is a self-sufficient, off-the-grid lifestyle. Tara is sure in the introduction to say that the book is not an indictment of Mormonism or Mormons, but is her experience with her family within an extreme version of that faith. It is a gritty tale, difficult to hear but arresting in its honesty.

The book is a great motivator in this challenging back-to-school season. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a unique perspective on what it means to be educated. Just be sure to follow it up with something light.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Summer Reading Preview Bonus Post: Backlist and New Read Goals

**Various issues led to this not being posted when intended. Here it is now.**

I love all the new books that come out in the summer, but I also love going back to books I have on my TBR shelf (or electronic device). I have a Trello page that outlines my reading goals for each month. I’m constantly tweaking it to include a mix of new books I’ve already got, backlist and series favs, and upcoming titles. Today I want to share some of my book goals involving backlist books and new books that came out earlier this year.

Backlist

Joanne Fluke Hannah Swensen Series

Cookie Shop owner Hannah Swensen seems to keep finding dead bodies in her small Minnesota town.  Drawn to both a sexy detective and a safe but alluring family friend, romantic tension is somewhat tame but definitely there.  I’ve read through about the fifth book, then read the three most recent. I need to get caught up. Start at the beginning with the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

Leslie Meier Lucy Stone Books

Wife, mother, and part-time reporter Lucy Stone runs into adventure and murder in a small Maine town. Another where I’ve read both ends of the series and need to connect the middle. All of the books are holiday or special milestone related, so start at the beginning with Mistletoe Murder, or choose the book with the nearest holiday. Some of the details will be out of order, but the mysteries are the same.

Murder Likes It Hot (Downward Dog Mystery) by Tracy Weber

I received a review copy of this sixth book in the series. I need to go back and read the first five. It follows a married yoga instructor  who deals with infertility, running a business, and murder.

Picnic In Provence by Elizabeth Bard

This one has been on my TBR for a long time. It’s a memoir with recipes. I think it would be a perfect summer read. I love anything set in Provence.

Fly Away (Firefly Lane #2) by Kristin Hannah

This is the sequel to Firefly Lane, which I loved.  I would love to follow what happens next with the characters.

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

Got this in a Christmas Book Secret Santa. It’d be interesting to see how the comedian got her start. I like to have at least one memoir going at all times.

New (Potential) Favs

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

  Edward is sole survivor of a plane crash.

Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Chloe is trying to get her life back on track after nearly dying. Will she find love along the way?

Startup by Doree Shafrir

Follows the lives of people surrounding a startup tech company. Complications and humor ensue. I got introduced to this book after listening to the author’s podcast with Kate Spencer, Forever 35.

Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

A mystery with a supernatural twist.

Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez 

This follows a woman getting her life on track after losing her fiancé.

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Conflicts and racial tensions ensue between black family who are long time residents of a neighborhood and their white neighbors who are part of the gentrification of the area. A budding relationship between the families’ teen children complicates matters.

I got this book as a review copy from the publisher.

Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

This is the first in a new cozy series set around an ice cream shop owner who discovers a murder while trying to get the struggling business back to it’s former glory. You know how I love a good cozy.

What’s lurking on your TBR that you’d like to move to the top of the pile? I’m a huge book collector, and am always buying, or borrowing from the library, different books I’ve heard about, even though I’ve got plenty already that could take me through at least two years of intense reading. Still, the siren song of the new, the call of series’ I’ve started but never finished, and all those Book of the Month Club selections that keep piling up, give me a little zing every time I think about another reading option. Time to adjust the Trello reading schedule!

Happy reading!

–Amy

Recent Reads: You’re Staying In, So You Might As Well Read.

Since we’re all staying home more because of COVID-19, it’s a good time to catch up on your TBR list. There are a lot of great new books coming out, but don’t forget those backlist picks. It’s also a great time to buy e-books or download them from the library (try Overdrive or Libby). Audiobooks are great choices for listening to while you’re working from home (support independent bookstores through Libro.fm).

Here are some of my recent reads (just a few this time):

This is a dark, but interesting story. The lead FBI agent Elsa Myers is on the case of the disappearance of Ruby. The case blows up into the hunt for a serial kidnapper and killer. The team Myers is working with sorts through the clues and information to try to find the man who has kidnapped and killed girls in sets of three. During this race against time, Elsa is triggered by her own past as she tries to care for and reconcile with her father, who is dying. As the case ramps up, the third kidnapping makes it personal.

This can be a hard book to read at times, because of the dark subject matter. Elsa is a well-developed, complex character who is hardly predictable. The supporting cast on the team as well as her sister and niece play pivotal roles that lead Elsa down a twisted road to solve the case and resolve her feelings about her past.

I can’t say this book was enjoyable, because of the focus on child kidnapping and abuse. But it was interesting and a good read. I would recommend the author’s future books. Just follow it up with something light.

**Thank you to NetGalley for the e-book review copy in exchange for an honest review.**


This is the third book in the St. Caroline series. I haven’t read the others, but this can be read as a stand alone. Cassidy Trevor is off limits to Matt Wolfe, but when the two are thrown together the chair a holiday event. Their experience becomes a secret friendship that blossoms into love. 

In this somewhat spicy book, the author creates clearly drawn characters that are interesting and fun. The reason they’re “off limits” to each other seems a bit contrived, but the storyline is generally believable. You find yourself rooting for Matt and Cassidy as the story comes to a satisfying end. 

I’m guessing I would have understood all the relationships in the book a lot more easily in I’d read the first two books. 

This is a good, fun, enjoyable escape with some spice for those who like that.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of the e-book in exchange for an honest review.

I love a great cozy mystery, and this one didn’t disappoint. Sammy runs a community crafting store and must involve her cousin Heidi and sister Ellie (who together make up the S.H.E.s) when a woman dies while posing as a live mannequin in Sammy’s window display during the Fire and Ice festival in Hartford, WI.

This book kept me guessing. I’m usually pretty good at guessing the killer by about halfway through, but this one took a little longer. There are some good suspenseful scenes that turn the plot on its head and were great ways to speed along the story through the middle. (No saggy middle here!)

The ending left me with a few questions, but overall it was satisfying. This is the third book in the series, and while it wasn’t hard to read as a standalone, I think some of the characterization would have been easier to understand if you have read the first two books.

A delightful author. I’d love to read more by her.

Thank you to NetGalley for the review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.