B O O K R E V I E W : Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Happy publication day to Book Lovers by Emily Henry, and thank you so much to @berkleypub and @berkleyromance for a gifted copy of one of my most anticipated books of the year! #berkleypartner #berkleyig

Book agent Nora Stephens always gets the best deals for her authors. She’s organized, tough, and a workaholic. She’s also careful not to fall in love; she’s not that kind of heroine. After all, three of her ex-boyfriends have gone on work trips to small towns only to find their true loves in the wholesome locales. Her one weakness is her little sister, Libby, whom she will always protect and to whom she will never say no.

So when Libby, five months pregnant, asks Nora to visit Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August for a sister’s getaway, Nora packs her bags. Libby has a list—laminated no less!—of things they (Nora) need to do during their vacation, including ride a horse, date a local, and save a small business. Nora can’t resist a good list.

Instead of finding a charming hamlet, though, Sunshine Falls leaves a little to be desired, such as reliable wi-fi and decent restaurants. And rather than running into a handsome denizen, Nora keeps seeing Charlie Lastra, an editor she knows from the city. Two years ago, when first meeting, Charlie chastised her for being six minutes late to a meeting. As far as Nora can tell, time has not made him less serious or brusque. They both know what they want, and it doesn’t include a future with the other, but that might not be the final chapter of their story.

“This book, this job, this trip, this never-ending, days-spanning conversation. I want to make it all last, and I need to know how it ends. I want to finish it, and I need it to go on forever.”

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Book Lovers since I first heard Henry mention it at a virtual event last summer. It’s as good as Beach Read, and transcends the romance genre. Reading this, I both laughed and cried.

📖 Full of bibliophiles and set in the publishing industry, the book celebrates writing and reading.
📖 Multiple characters have to negotiate how to manage balancing their own needs and desires against those of loved ones. It questions when sacrifices are necessary and when they verge into martyrdom.
📖 The book talks a lot about tropes in books, but another theme is family relationships (particularly among siblings) and how people are assigned roles within families.
📖Even though it’s set in South Carolina, it gives a lot of love to NYC!
📖 Charlie might be more swoonworthy than Gus!
📖 No one writes snarky banter (my favorite) better than Henry!

B O O K R E V I E W : Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders
Kathryn Miles
Algonquin Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Women have not always been welcomed into the outdoors community, but Lollie Winans and Julie Williams both loved nature and had extensive backcountry leadership experience. The two met in 1995 through Woodswomen, an adventure and travel organization run for and by women. In May 1996, the women, still dating and now based in Maine where Lollie was completing her college degree, visited Shenandoah National Park for a week-long backcountry camping with Lollie’s dog, Taj.

When the women didn’t return home as planned, park rangers initiated a search. Their first attempts to locate Lollie and Julie were unsuccessful but then they found their campsite in an isolated clearing not too far from the Appalachian Trail. The scene was a nightmare: their tent had been slashed open, and the women were both found dead, bound by duct tape, and wrapped in their sleeping bags. (Taj, missing, was later found and returned to Lollie’s ex-fiancé.)

Acclimated journalist Kathryn Miles started researching the case for a planned article which became her book, Trailed. As an experienced backpacker herself, Miles told many people she was writing the book so she’d no longer be scared—scared out in nature, doing what she loved. Her experience and comfort with the culture also gave her added insight into both the Lollie and Julie and the people who may have crossed path.

One aspect of the book I appreciated was it’s celebration of the lives of Lollie and Julie and how their loss reverberated through their families, friends, communities, and the author herself.

As she tried to understand what happened to the women, Miles had access to the primary investigators, legal documents, and members of the defense team representing Darrel David Rice. Over her four years of research, she interviewed countless individuals connected to the case, including family members, friends, and people who were in the park in late May 1996. I was very impressed with the depth of her research, the variety of her sources, her determination to complete the story despite the personal costs, and her writing skills.

Miles’s research shows how lack of resources plus human error—-deliberate and unintentional—focused blame on Rice even though no evidence could connect him to the scene. Though a more likely suspect arose, the investigators refused to authorize the forensic tests that might implicate him and finally provide resolution.

If you liked The Third Rainbow Girl or The Facts of a Body, you will love this. I highly recommend to those who enjoy reading true crime.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for including me on the book tour and for an advanced reading copy of the book.