What we're about

Love to read? Like to try new activities? Let's read, tour and explore together! Join this unique book club where we discuss a book while engaging in an activity or exploring a location inspired by the book!

It's a great way to meet fellow book lovers who also want to go on adventures! Are you ready for the next chapter? Pick up that book and let's go explore together! For more book and activity pairings,  sign up for the semi-monthly newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/fc5e0725650d/thenoveltou...; and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheNovelTourist.

Upcoming events (4+)

Laurel Hill Cemetery and "The Beirut Hellfire Society" by Rawl Hage

Needs a location

Join me and Heather as we stroll through the gorgeous Laurel Hill Cemetery, shop at the annual Market of the Macabre, and then gather for a picnic book discussion about "The Beirut Hellfire Society." Some reviewers have called it the most macabre book they've ever read! BYOP - Bring Your Own Picnic!


ACTIVITY: Laurel Hill Cemetery and Market of the Macabre
The Market of the Macabre strives to showcase quality makers, artists, and crafters whose work is gothic, dark, witchy, strange, curious, scary, and absurd - the miasma of macabre!

Stroll through Laurel Hill: In an era when the city of Philadelphia suffered from crowding, disease and scarcity of public space, Laurel Hill offered an “alternative environment.” Previously, churchyards (graveyards) were the only places available to bury the dead, and they were often as crowded and unsanitary as the streets that bordered them. Worse yet, rapid industrialization and population growth commonly led to the disinterment of burial grounds to make way for roads and buildings. Laurel Hill’s founding is deeply rooted in the cultural history of Philadelphia’s urbanization, and in the simultaneous development of crafted, suburban sanctuaries of nature and retreat just beyond the city’s limits. Laurel Hill was not only established as a permanent, non-sectarian burial place for the dead, but also as a scenic, riverside sanctuary for the living.

Since the earliest days of Laurel Hill, the founders and managers of the Cemetery recognized the great potential for recreation that the rural, picturesque site held. Laurel Hill preceded New York’s Central Park by more than two decades, and was most certainly an inspiration for Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Picnics, strolls, carriage rides and sightseeing were popular pastimes in Laurel Hill’s early days, when “nearly 30,000 persons…entered the gates between April and December, 1848.” The site continues to remain a favored retreat for tourists, joggers, bicyclists, nature lovers, sketch artists and amateur photographers

FEE: $5 - Pay at the door to Laurel Hill.


FOOD: It's a BYOP kinda place! That means BRING YOUR OWN PICNIC! After we are done shopping we can stroll the grounds and then find a lovely spot to gather to eat and discuss the book. Bring whatever you'd like to nosh on and your beverages, too! (Note: Alcohol is not permitted on the grounds). Closer to the date, we'll let you know more precisely where we are going to gather to picnic.

BOOK: The Beirut Hellfire Society by
“Truly a masterpiece.” —Lawrence Joseph
On a ravaged street overlooking a cemetery in a Christian enclave in war-torn 1970s Beirut, we meet Pavlov, the son of a local undertaker. When his father dies suddenly, Pavlov is approached by a member of the mysterious Hellfire Society—an anti-religious sect that arranges secret burial for outcasts denied last rites because of their religion or sexuality. Pavlov agrees to take on his father’s work for the society, and over the course of the novel he becomes a survivor-chronicler of his embattled and faded community at the heart of Lebanon’s civil war.

Available on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3vXZt8t or even better, try your local library or bookstore!

Happy Reading!


FOODIE FICTION: China! Han Dynasty & "The Last Chinese Chef" by Nicole Mones

In May, our Foodie Fiction foray will take us to China when we read The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. We'll discuss the book, which Ruth Reich heralds as a love story, a mystery and "the most thorough explanation of Chinese food that I’ve ever read in the English language” while sampling 15 courses from Han Dynasty in West Philly's tasting menu. Get ready to get spicy!


FOODIE: Han Dynasty - Tasting Menu (15 courses, communal seating and plates).

Han Dynasty opened its doors in 2007 as a Mother-Son restaurant bringing Sichuan style spice to the American audience. It's grown to 10 locations across Philadelphia and NYC. Han Dynasty is committed to sharing the authentic cuisine of the Sichuan Chinese culture and the tradition behind it.

"My food is a perfect balance of spice, numbness, saltiness, and flavor" - Han Chiang, Founder

Per the Han Dynasty:

  • Food will be served FAMILY STYLE with dishes coming from the kitchen to be passed around and shared by the table.
  • Zero substitutions, Zero modifications. Zero accommodations for allergies and/or food restrictions. These are very special Chinese banquet style dishes that require tons of preparation and cannot be modified. There will be spice ;)


FEE: $38.40 - Ticket price includes all taxes and gratuities.
There are also options to add Beer or Cocktail pairing (Total $64.40)
To purchase ticket: https://www.handynasty.net/store/event/hans-may-tasting-university-city/
In the "Party Leader" field put "The Novel Tourist Book Club" so that they
sit you with us.


FICTION: The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones

"The bestselling author of Lost in Translation unlocks the deepest mysteries of legendary Chinese culinary arts to produce a feast for the human heart” (David Henry Hwang, author of M. Butterfly).

This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the bestselling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, Mones’ captivating story also brings into focus a changing China—this time the hidden world of high culinary culture.

When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husband’s estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang.

In China, Maggie unties the knots of her husband’s past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sam’s family—a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners—and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places and “a stunning picture of a country caught between tradition and modern life” (Entertainment Weekly).

World Gourmand Award Winner

“I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like this. It’s a love story, it’s a mystery, and it’s also the most thorough explanation of Chinese food that I’ve ever read in the English language.”—Ruth Reich

Available on Amazon here or even better, try your local library or bookstore!

Happy Reading!

  • Audrey

Pillow, Paddle and Peddle Poconos Weekend! Let's getaway to explore Jim Thorpe!

Needs a location


Adventure lovers, this is going to be right up your alley! The Pillow, Paddle and Peddle Poconos weekend will take us to Jim Thorpe, PA. On Friday night we'll chill out while exploring the super quaint village of Jim Thorpe. Then we'll rest our heads on fluffy PILLOWs at local lodging (TBD). On Saturday we'll PADDLE down the Lehigh River on whitewater rafts! On Sunday we'll take a scenic train ride on the Lehigh Gorge Rail and PEDDLE our way back down the bike trail. All this fun in the POCONOS!


Only those who want to spend Friday and Saturday night in Jim Thorpe should respond to this event post. If you want to stay the weekend, but you only want to Paddle or Peddle, but not both, that's okay! You can do your own activity while we Paddle (or Peddle). There's so much to do in Jim Thorpe! If you only want to Paddle or Peddle, but not stay the weekend, you can sign up separately once I post those events.

LODGING FEE (Location provided to those who have paid):
$300 total for both nights per person. Includes breakfast both mornings prepared by our own personal chef! We'll also be noshing on yummy, deluxe snacks on Friday and Saturday night.


Here's the plan for the weekend:
Friday: Check into our lodging: 4pm

Friday night: Trolley tour (approximately $25)
We'll grab dinner at a local TBD restaurant or possible take the pub/dinner trolley tour that starts at 6:30. Then, we'll go back to our lodging and hit the Pillow! If you can't get there at 6:30, that's okay. You can just join us at the dinner place (TBD).

Saturday: Paddle! (approximately $78)
Whitewater rafting with Pocono Whitewater Rafting.
Choose your own pace with mild to wild dam release water or family style whitewater rafting. (I'm going wild!). At the end of the trip, around the bonfire, we'll compare our adventure to that of Wini in the whitewater rafting thriller, The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik.

Those who don't want to spend the weekend can join us to raft just for the day.

If you want to Pillow and Peddle, but don't want to Paddle, there's lots to do in Jim Thorpe while others Paddle!

Sunday: Peddle! (approximately $35)
We're going to take a scenic train ride on the Lehigh Gorge Railway from Jim Thorpe to White Haven and then leisurely follow the Lehigh Gorge trail back down by bicycle (rental or bring you own). While on the train, we'll discuss the adventures of bicycle-riding detective Flavia in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. More details here.

If you want to Pillow and Paddle, but don't want to Peddle, there's lots to do in Jim Thorpe while others Peddle!


Weekend lodging cost doesn't include food and drinks (other than snacks and breakfast as mentioned). BYOB.

- Audrey

White Water Rafting in Jim Thorpe and "The River at Night," by Erica Ferencik

Needs a location


Summer's coming! Let's hit the river! The Lehigh River, that is! Choose your own pace with mild to wild dam release whitewater and family style whitewater rafting. (I'm going wild!). At the end of the trip, around the bonfire, we'll compare our adventure to that of Wini in the whitewater rafting thriller, The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik.


Note: This is Day 2 of the Pillow, Paddle and Peddle Poconos weekend in Jim Thorpe. You can choose to join us just for the day or stay for the weekend!


THE ACTIVITY: White water rafting
Let's PADDLE! the Lehigh River on an adventurous white water rafting trip with Pocono Whitewater Rafting outfitter.

Choose your level of comfort:

11:05 am - Family level- 3-4 hours on river (4-5 in total with prep and break)
This 8 mile Class I and II whitewater rafting of the Lehigh River is ideal for everyone; beginners, kids ages 4 and older, school groups, as well as adults that just want to kick back and enjoy the great outdoors in the Pocono Mountains. The Family level rafting option includes an All-You-Can-Eat, Riverside Barbecue - a picnic lunch consisting of hot dogs, macaroni or potato salad, chips, fruit, lemonade and water. Pocono Whitewater Adventures has its very own riverside meadow complete with picnic tables, food service, and portable restrooms. (Note: vegetarian options are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or in the food stand they sell vegetable hoagies for a separate purchase fee)

11:15 am - Dam release level - 4-5 hours on river (6-7 total hours with prep and break)
You’ll be surrounded by state park protected mountains while enjoying 12 miles and 4-5 hours of Class II, III whitewater rafting and breathtaking scenery. Whitewater adventures are fun, thrilling, and memorable. In fact, it’s an adventure that everyone can enjoy – no experience necessary! Not only will you paddle through 17 sets of rapids, but you’ll also laugh, get wet and have an amazing day outdoors. Lunch is NOT included in this option so bring your own lunch or buy at the raft food stand.

Dam Release - $77.39 (includes fees and tax)
Family Style - $70.94 (includes fees and tax)

HOW TO PAY: Please DO NOT use the business/services option that says the seller pays a fee because that charges me a fee. If you do, you'll need to cover the charges. I'm not a seller. The fee is the actual fee charged by the rafting company.
Venmo - @audrey-heller1
PayPal - https://www.paypal.me/AudreyBug

### Whitewater Rafting Rates Include:

  • All necessary whitewater rafting equipment
  • Life jacket
  • Food and beverage:
  • (Dam release) 5 gallon bucket with lid to store your Bring-Your-Own Lunch
  • (Family style) Picnic lunch provided
  • Free parking
  • Post-trip bonfire
  • Change rooms
  • Shuttle service to/from the river
  • Professional river guides
  • Your photo is taken on the river and available for purchase in their store at the end of your day or online at PoconoWhitewaterPhotos.com.

Shoes: Wear shoes that will not fall off your feet. Bare feet, flip flops, slides, or slippers are NOT permitted.
Don't forget sunblock!


THE BOOK: The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik
Genre: Thriller
A 2017 Indie Next Pick
A high-stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

Happy reading!
- Audrey


Past events (62)

A Day in D.C (Library of Congress and more) and "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown

Photos (1,082)