Monica’s Musings: That Sounds Fun

That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs

“Travel has always been one of the best parts of my job. But about a year ago, I felt God whisper to me, ‘You’re going to want to be home next fall.’”
― Annie F. Downs, That Sounds Fun: The Joys of Being an Amateur, the Power of Falling in Love, and Why You Need a Hobby

Summary: We know there are certain things we must have to survive–food, shelter, and safety to name a few. But there are also aspects of life that truly allow us to be joyful and fulfilled. For popular podcaster and bestselling author Annie F. Downs, fun is close to the top of that list. Few would argue that having fun doesn’t enrich our lives, but so much gets in the way of prioritizing it. Tough days, busyness, and feelings that are hard to talk about keep us from the fun that’s out there waiting to be found.

With That Sounds Fun, Annie offers an irresistible invitation to understand the meaning of fun, to embrace it and chase it, and to figure out what, exactly, sounds fun to you–then do it! Exploring some research and sharing some thoughts behind why fun matters, she shows you how to find, experience, and multiply your fun. With her signature storytelling style and whimsical vulnerability, Annie is the friend we all need to guide us back to staying true to ourselves and finding the fun we need.

My Opinion: This book, while entertaining, was not at all what I expected. The story is heavily influenced by Christian values and focuses on the author’s life. I thought it would explain more about figuring out a hobby and having fun. I found the author unrelatable, but I still enjoyed hearing her story.

Listeners of her podcast would probably enjoy this very much. I had not listened to her podcast prior. I simply picked it because of the catchy title and pretty cover. I feel like this book falls more in the autobiography category rather than self-help. I am a big fan of a good self-help book that leaves you motivated for life. However, this gave very little advice, and instead was a collection of the author’s personal experiences. Overall, I didn’t take much from reading this book, but it was short and simple enough to finish it.

*I listened to the audiobook on Spotify, and I will say I skipped the interviews at the end of the book.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Middle of the Night

Middle of the Night by Riley Sager

First line: Morning sunlight seeps into the tent like a water leak, dripping onto the boy in a muted glow.

Summary: Ethan Marsh has spent the last thirty years wondering what happened to his best friend. One summer night while the boys were camping in Ethan’s backyard his best friend Billy disappeared without a trace. He has been plagued with an ongoing nightmare about that night but no memories of what happened to Billy. However, upon moving back to his childhood home it appears that someone or something is trying to get Ethan to remember that long ago night. As Ethan digs deeper into his past he finds secrets that were buried years ago by those around him who he trusted most.

My Thoughts: Well this was a surprise! The main character is a man. Never has Sager written a male main character. But even with this diversion from his norm the book did not disappoint. With every new chapter there were more twists added to the plot. No one was safe from suspicion in the disappearance of Billy.

Sporadically throughout the story we get pieces of different characters and their remembrances of the day everything changed in this idyllic neighborhood. Even when you think you have it figured out then another theory is brought forward. This may be a difficult one for any reader to deduce before the end.

Similar to Sager’s previous novel, The Only One Left, there is a big old house with mysterious characters residing there. Little is known about what happens at the institute. It is the perfect backdrop for this otherwise perfect little community.

As I finished this book I may have given myself a headache from the tension of the story. I found it very hard to put this book down. It is easy to say just one more chapter while reading any of Sager’s books but this one in particular. Each chapter will give the reader just a little bit more about what really happened thirty years before.

Monica’s Musings: End of Story

End of Story by A.J. Finn

I’ll be dead in three months. Come tell my story.
― A.J. Finn, End of Story

Summary: So writes Sebastian Trapp, reclusive mystery novelist, to his longtime correspondent Nicky Hunter, an expert in detective fiction. With mere months to live, Trapp invites Nicky to his spectacular San Francisco mansion to help draft his life story . . . living alongside his beautiful second wife, Diana; his wayward nephew, Freddy; and his protective daughter, Madeleine. Soon Nicky finds herself caught in an irresistible case of real-life “detective fever.”

“You and I might even solve an old mystery or two.”

Twenty years earlier—on New Year’s Eve 1999—Sebastian’s first wife and teenage son vanished from different locations, never to be seen again. Did the perfect crime writer commit the perfect crime? And why has he emerged from seclusion, two decades later, to allow a stranger to dig into his past?

“Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”

As Nicky attempts to weave together the strands of Sebastian’s life, she becomes obsessed with discovering the truth . . . while Madeleine begins to question what her beloved father might actually know about that long-ago night. And when a corpse appears in the family’s koi pond, both women are shocked to find that the past isn’t gone—it’s just waiting.

My Opinion: This book makes you slow down and pay attention to every detail. I highly recommend reading the physical copy, as I was confused multiple times throughout the audiobook. Pacing-wise, End of Story is a slow read, with an over-complicated plot. It tries to weave in too many strands that it ends up being hard to keep track of.

The last few chapters were interesting, but the rest of the book never grabbed me enough that I found it irresistible. If you have read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and enjoyed it, just be warned this is an entirely different type of book. Overall, I think this book was intriguing, but I do wish it had a little more going on in the first half to make it quicker paced.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Rom-Commers

The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

Summary: Emma has spent the last ten years taking care of her disabled father. Then one day her best friend calls her with the opportunity of a lifetime. She is being asked to work on a screenplay with her favorite screenwriter, Charlie Yates. As she reads the screenplay she realizes that this will take a lot of work but it is a challenge she is willing to pursue but she worries about her father. Leaving him with her sister who has little idea of what Emma has done to take care of him she takes a leap of faith and embarks on her chance at advancing her career.

But upon arrival she discovers that Charlie did not know she was coming. After some convincing and perusal of her work he reluctantly agrees but this job will not be as easy as she imagined. Charlie does not appear to care about the script or even believe in love. Emma is determined to show him that rom-coms are worthwhile and she will prove it to him no matter what.

My Thoughts: This is my second Katherine Center book and I enjoyed it just as much as the first, Hello Stranger. The title, The Rom-Commers, is exactly why I have enjoyed these two books. They are easy to read, have cute scenes between the two main characters and follow the usual pattern of a rom-com. Sometimes I just want something easy and silly. This fits that bill exactly.

Each character is hard-headed. They constantly butt heads and argue but this perfect romantic tension. At times I did find the story a little drawn out but it was easy to overlook. I enjoyed it, laughed at some of the silliness and got frustrated with the characters at appropriate times. This is perfect for reading at the pool side on vacation or with a cup of tea on the patio.

**Release date is June 11, 2024.