No Baggage by Clara Bensen


(photo courtesy of Goodreads)

So this book was kind of a random choice for me. I was looking for something new to listen to on audiobook (I have a long-ish commute to work, and I usually alternate between podcasts and audiobooks), and found this one while cataloging at work. It sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try.

The book is a memoir, recounting the start of Bensen’s relationship with a quirky, minimalist professor named Jeff Wilson. Having just met and started dating, Bensen agrees to go on a trip across Europe with Jeff. But the catch is that they can’t bring any luggage and they can’t make any reservations or plans. The whole situation makes for quite an interesting trip, with some ups and downs for them personally as well as for their new relationship.

While this kind of trip isn’t something that I would ever attempt myself, especially with someone that I’ve just met, it made for really interesting listening. Not only because of the exciting travel journey, but because of Bensen’s mental journey as well. In the memoir, Bensen discusses her struggle with mental illness, which she was just starting to get over when she met Jeff. This is part of the reason she decides to accept his invitation, because she feels like the trip will break her out of her comfort zone and help her overcome some of her difficulties.

I really think that this aspect of the story, the fact that she’s still trying to overcome her mental illness, makes it more than just a quirky travel adventure story. And the fact that she’s also trying to mesh with someone who she hasn’t known for very long, who is very different from her, makes for some really interesting conflict. The premise of this story does remind me of some other memoirs like Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, but to me this feels a little bit more realistic and less “inspirational” than others in that life-changing memoir genre. This one, on the other hand, feels a bit more down to earth, and as the reader you’re not completely sure how everything is going to work out in the end. This is something I usually appreciate in a story, since it can get really boring to read a story that you already know to ending to.

I think one other thing that really made this memoir good was being able to listen to the author read it. A good narrator can make the difference for any audiobook, and the author reading their own book is always really cool. But I feel like it’s almost required for a memoir to be read by the author, since they can put so much more of themselves and their experiences into the reading. It really makes all the difference.

If anyone has read this book, what did you think of it? Also, if you have any other memoirs to recommend, let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!



The Classics Book Tag

I haven’t been tagged to do this, but another blogger that I follow completed this tag, and it looked like it would be right up my alley. So here we go:

An overhyped classic you didn’t really like.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville


I lucked out and never had to read this in high school or college, but attempted it a year ago just to see what all the fuss was about. And there was fuss among my fellow creative writing students and teachers. This book was one of those really difficult ones that everyone felt superior for having read. But after attempting it, I have to say that I really can’t see what all the fuss is about.

Favourite time period to read about.



(photo courtesy of

Regency England. I’m not sure if this stems from a long time love of Jane Austen or what, but I just love read everything about Regency England. Mostly the clothes. In fact, a large part of why I love classics and historical fiction so much has to do with the clothes.

Favourite fairy tale.

I’m honestly not that big into fairy tales; at least the traditional ones. I’ve read some good retellings of eastern european fairy tales that make me want to read the original. Here they are, if you’re interested:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Firebird by Mercedes Lackey

What is the most embarrassing classic you haven’t read?

Dracula by Bram Stoker


It’s disappointing now, because I feel like I missed out on a lot of classics that everyone else read in high school and college. I seemed to always be in the class that switched it up and read the non-standard book instead of the classic. But this is the biggest one that I haven’t read. I even have a copy, because I intend to read it, but I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

Top 5 classics you would like to read soon.

Favourite modern book/series based on a classic.

Longbourn by Jo Baker


While looking up some modern retellings and books based on classics, I’m realizing that I haven’t read too many. I’d love to change that. But one that I have read that I really enjoyed was this book, which is about the servants from Pride and Prejudice. This is a really interesting take on the story, since the servants are very much in the background in Pride and Prejudice, but in this version they are very much in the forefront. It gives the story much more of a Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs vibe, which I really enjoy.

Favourite movie version/tv-series based on a classic.

Worst classic to movie adaptation.

Favourite edition(s) you would like to collect more classics from.


(photo courtesy of Book Riot)

I like a lot of the Barnes and Noble classics editions, especially the newer ones. They older ones are simple and classic, but they’ve come out with a lot of newer editions that use really interesting artwork and cover design.

An underhyped classic you’d recommend to everyone.

Persuasion by Jane Austen


It’s definitely the least talked about and most overlooked of Austen’s novels, and it’s probably my favorite one.


Happy reading!


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson


I read this book a couple months ago during my blogging hiatus, but I really wanted to talk about it now because it might be one of the most interesting realistic YA fiction novels I’ve ever read. The story follows two twins, Noah and Jude, and the perspective switches back and forth between them. The interesting part is that Noah’s perspective takes place when the twins are 13-years-old, and Jude’s perspective takes place when they’re 16-years-old. So as the reader, you find out bits and pieces from each twin, but you don’t really know the whole story until the very end.

I don’t really want to give away too many details, and the way the book is written makes it hard to say what is the main plot and what is side-story. Overall, you just get a really good picture of both twins from their own point of view as well as from the other’s point of view. There’s a bit of romance, a bit of back-stabbing and jealousy, and also a lot of coming of age. And all of that is mixed with the perspective of two very different twins who are both artists. The way they see the world and interpret things makes the book almost magical to read, without necessarily considering this to be magical realism.

This book definitely made me think after reading it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves realistic YA fiction. If you want to go and take a look, I’ll add a link to the Goodreads page.

Happy reading!


(Photo courtesy of Goodreads)

The Jingle Bell Book Tag

This is my first holiday tag ever, so thanks to Stephanie from Adventures of a Bibliophile for tagging me. Hopefully I’ll get to do a couple more of these over the month, and get my blog a little bit more into the blogmas spirit. Here we go…

“All I Want For Christmas Is You…” – What book do you want to see under the Christmas Tree?

I’ve had my eye on Lauren Graham’s new book, Talking as Fast as I Can, and Hannah Hart’s memoir Buffering. I know that’s two books, but they’re on a similar theme, so I think it’s appropriate.

“Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time…” –  What book that you have read this year have you enjoyed the most?

I’m going to cheat again slightly, because I read the Imperial Radch trilogy earlier this year, and I don’t know if I can pick just one out of the three. This is probably the best sci-fi series I’ve read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi.

Elf – What book unleashes your inner child?

Honestly, talking about any book or series that I read as a child unleashes a bit of my inner child. But I think Harry Potter has always been a big one for me, since it was such a big part of my childhood and teenage years.

“It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” – Which book has most festive look to it?

This may not be a traditionally holiday-oriented choice, but my leather-bound copy of Wuthering Heights looks pretty festive, in my opinion.


(photo courtesy of Barnes and Noble)

The Grinch – Your favourite villain…

I really don’t know if I can answer this, since I’m the kind of person who really hates villains, and goes through the whole book getting really anxious about why the villain is doing all of the things they’re doing. Maybe I’ll just pick Iago from Othello, since I was kind of partial to how often he broke the fourth wall.

The Holiday – Name your favourite TWO couples…

Claire and Jamie from Outlander and Simon and Baz from Carry On.

What book would you like to give as a present to your followers?

I’m reading a really great historical fiction book at the moment, called These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, which I would definitely recommend. I would also buy it for everyone if I could.

I would like to tag Shley from Cats and Candy, and anyone else who would like to do this tag as well.

Hopefully you enjoyed this. It was hard to think of my favorites, but I still enjoyed it.


Is it interesting or not?

If you read my post the other day, you’ll know that I’ve been having trouble finding a book that’s really interesting me. I’ve been slowly trying to make my way through a book called Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. It’s about the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, and I love a good historical fiction book, so I was initially excited to pick it up.

However, it’s been really slow going. I’m maybe halfway finished with it in the week or so that I’ve been reading it, and I feel like it’s taking me a lot longer than it should. I just don’t find myself wanting to pick it up. Which is kind of disappointing. I feel like this book should be interesting, and there are definitely certain parts that have been, but other parts have been much harder to get through.

Another issue I’ve had with the book is the lack of likability of many of the characters. At least one of the characters is really supposed to be unlikable, but I don’t think I like Victoria’s character much either. At least in the half that I’ve read, she’s still very young and hasn’t necessarily made the best or most queen-like decisions. Even though the book is fairly historically accurate (as far as I can tell from a bit of online research), a few of the events have been kind of annoying to read about. They really just make Victoria seem kind of spoiled and petulant.

One more thing I could mention, that’s really more of a nit-pick than anything is that according to the inside cover, the book is partially about Victoria and Albert and their relationship. However, halfway through the book as I am, Albert has yet to appear.

Overall, I’m just not sure what the point of the book is supposed to be, or if it’s just event by event of her early reign. The whole experience just makes me question whether I’m really interested in the story as a whole. Honestly, I’m kind of leaning toward not finishing this book. Which is disappointing, since I’m so far in, but I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I don’t want to waste time with a book that I’m not going to enjoy. I just wish I’d realized before now….

Have you guys ever had this experience with a book? Would you finish it anyway, or put it aside? Let me know in the comments.

Happy (hopefully happier) reading!


I’m unsatisfied…

This is an interesting start to my new blog, titled Alyss Reads Books. Right now, I am reading a couple different books, but I’m unsatisfied with my options. None of my current choices are really drawing me in, even though they’re all interesting in their own ways. I’m having a lot of trouble getting invested in any of them.

This happens to me sometimes, and it usually passes. But it’s always really frustrating, because I’m the kind of person who is always reading something. I always have a book with me, and my Goodreads page always has at least one book in process (if not more than one). So it almost makes me anxious to feel this way, like I don’t have anything to read.

(On a side note, feeling like I don’t have anything to read is absolutely not the same thing as not actually having any books to read. I have plenty of books that I can read, that I haven’t read already. The issue at hand is the inclination to read any of them.)

I really wish I was the type of person who could pick up any interesting book, start reading, and be perfectly happy. But I’m not. I read pretty widely throughout the genres, and I have to be in the right mood for a certain genre. So just picking up the next book on my pile isn’t going to cut it. I’ve already surrounded myself with books that spark an interest for me when I find them at the book store or library, but in order for me to actually read them, there’s an incredibly complicated and inexplicable process that occurs in my brain.

Well, my inexplicable processes are stymied at the moment, so what’s a book-loving girl to do?