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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The WonderRating: **** (4/5)

Published: Little, Brown & Co, September 2016

Format: ARC

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Publisher (BEA)

A skeptical nurse is charged with observing a child who claims not to have eaten in four months. When Lib is sent to Ireland, she initially thinks that 11 year old Anna’s fast is a hoax. Lib is flabbergasted by Anna’s superstitions and Catholic piousness and is determined to expose the fraud. The first 150 pages are just Lib observing Anna and getting to know her family and the local culture. And there wasn’t much happening in Anna’s little Irish hamlet other than pilgrims flocking to her, interfering in Lib’s watch.

If it hadn’t taken more than half of the book for the momentum to really pick up, I would have given it 5 stars. By the final 50 pages, I was completely swept away. As more of Anna’s character was fleshed out, the more I liked her and sympathized with Lib’s difficult position. I was thoroughly vested in Anna’s survival, despite how frustrating her stubborn convictions were (not to mention the ignorance of other peripheral characters). The background given in the first half was absolutely necessary despite the slow buildup. Though my sick and twisted mind kind of predicted Anna’s motives, I was still deeply moved by what drove her to such extremes. It was the kind of ending that had me pondering it for a long while after I finished, so based on that, I would definitely recommend this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

Also by Emma Donoghue: Room

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Fates and Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini

fates and traitorsRating: **** (4/5)

Published: Dutton, September 2016

Format: Signed ARC

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Publisher (BEA)

I’m not typically drawn to American historical fiction, but the premise of this novel intrigued me, as John Wilkes Booth is one of the most notorious figures in American history. Chiaverini did not disappoint in her portrayal of him through the eyes of 4 women: his mother, his sister, his love interest/fiancé, and fellow conspirator Mary Surratt. I was initially drawn in by the story of JWB’s parents and the eccentricities of his famous thespian father. Sister Asia offered a glimpse of the young man during the formative years that would ultimately shape his passions. Lucy,  the daughter of a senator, fell in love with Booth despite his lowly station as an actor. Mary Surratt had foreknowledge of a conspiracy against Lincoln and was the only woman hanged for her role in JWB’s nefarious plot. These different perspectives offered varied insights into a complex, zealous man. I was captivated by the storytelling and was impressed with Chiavereini’s depiction of Booth and the women who were most affected by his actions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

chiaverini signature

Back story on the signature: Chiaverini and her rep from Dutton were so adorable, I told them they were the cutest signing booth at BEA.  Thus, her inscription.

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Never Leave Your Dead by Diane Cameron

never leave your deadSubtitle: A True Story of War Trauma, Murder, and Madness

Rating: **** (4/5)

Published: Central Recovery Press, June 2016

Format: Signed Paperback

Genre: True Crime

Source: Publisher (BEA)

This book is a search for answers and combines all of the elements of a memoir, biography, true crime, psychological inquest, and Marine memorial. Cameron’s goal here is to try to understand her stepfather, Donald Watkins, a former Marine who returned from duty and subsequently murdered his wife and mother in law. Since he was declared insane, Watkins never stood trial for the murders, and was shunted off to an asylum where he faced 22 years of abuse and deprivation.

This man did not have an easy life. As witness to the horrors that the Japanese inflicted on the Chinese, Watkins suffered what we today define as PTSD, which in the early 40’s lacked classification. Not only did he have to stand by helplessly as the Japanese brutally massacred the Chinese, he also had to clean up the mess of human remains. When he finally “cracked,” he was not given the proper treatment for his trauma, leading to even more tragedy. Cameron attempts to understand how a man could have endured such horrors and how that would motivate him to kill his own family. She also struggles with her own past, especially her strained relationship with her mother who married Watkins despite his dubious history. It’s an intriguing piece of investigative journalism, incorporating military history and mental illness to define the unfortunate life of Donald Watkins.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. cameron signature


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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

626F6F78747265616D=7474747474727576707<7473Authors: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne

Rating: **** (4/5)

Published: Arthur A. Levine Books, July 2016

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Harry Freaking Potter

Source: Personal Collection

When we left an adult Harry Potter seeing his youngest son Albus off to Hogwarts at the end of book 7, there was no indication that the relationship between the two was complicated. In this new installment, Albus struggles with his famous father’s legacy. With his BFF Scorpio Malfoy, he schemes to steal a time turner to go back to the Triwizard Tournament to save Cedric Diggory. Two inexperienced adolescent wizards playing with time is bound to go bad, and when they change history, mayhem ensues. The time travel device could have gotten confusing, but I think it was well done here. When the boys realize the consequences of their meddling, the adults get involved to try to prevent Voldemort’s victory.

Was this book a necessary addendum to the stories we already know and love? Not really. Was it entertaining and nice to revisit our favorite characters? You bet! Though it wasn’t as thoroughly engrossing and endearing as Rowling’s novels, it was still a fun return to the wizarding world.



And now, ladies and gentleman, the moment you’ve been waiting for…  Here, in all its glory is my completed library.

library pano

Above you’ll see the panorama of all the shelves.  Thanks again to ShortMan for painting the back panels.  And I love the futon.  Not only does it fold flat to a bed, it also turns into a chaise.  The color is perfect, and I like the low height because it doesn’t block the bookcases too much.  The Hubs and I thought it was pretty super that this is the one bedroom that had molding on the ceiling.  So with the nice clean lines of the white shelves, it looks very classy.

Here is more detail:

The bookcases on the left hand wall and the window wall are all read fiction.  The two bookcases on the right wall are TBR.  I saved room on the bottom for writing binders, journals, yearbooks, and scrapbooks because I’d never had a good place to house them before.

Below you’ll see details of the following: my author wall of fame (Jodi Picoult, Mary Kubica, Sophie Littlefield, Patricia Harman, and James Rollins), the vignette below it, the antique school desk and bulletin board, and the shelf above.

You guys, I don’t think I need to tell you that I am in love with this room.  The only thing missing is a rug (I’m thinking something like this) because the carpet isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing.  The best part is I have room to grow my collection over the years.  It’s an absolute dream come true.

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Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo

among the wickedRating: ***** (5/5)

Published: Minotaur, July 2016

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Mystery

Source: Personal Collection

When a teenage Amish girl dies under mysterious circumstances, Kate Burkholder is summoned to New York to go undercover. She quickly learns the situation is more dangerous than she anticipated and the Amish community she has infiltrated is harboring secrets. What begins as one girl freezing to death in the woods turns into allegations of child abuse, even whole missing families. But these suspected offenses are nothing compared to the truth, which is more sinister than anything Kate could have imagined.

Putting on an Amish dress and speaking the language after decades puts her out of her comfort zone, and with no backup or transportation, she is as vulnerable as she’s ever been. Kate being Kate, she is as stubborn and determined as ever, and that puts her in the sites of the creepy bishop, whom everyone seems to revere and fear at the same time.

Taking Kate into a different community provided a nice change of scenery and a new cast of characters gave the series some needed variety.

The rest of the books in the Kate Burkholder series:

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

gentleman in moscowRating: ***** (5/5)

Published: Viking, September 2016

Format: Signed ARC

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Publisher (BEA)

This is hands down the best book I’ve read this year. It’s the kind of meandering novel spanning decades, and I became so vested in the characters, I never wanted it to end. Count Rostov is declared a Non Person by the communist authorities and is placed under house arrest at the Metropol hotel. As he assimilates to his new life, history marches on and he must adapt to these unusual circumstances. The Count is the most amiable fellow, and his existence is presented with humor and intelligence.

The prose is exquisite and even confined to the hotel, Rostov’s life is amusing. I think the following quote captures the tone perfectly: “Popular wisdom tells us that when the reel of our concerns interferes with our ability to fall asleep, the best remedy is the counting of sheep in a meadow. But preferring to have his lamb encrusted with herbs and served with a red wine reduction, the Count chose a different methodology altogether.”

I cannot emphasize enough how delightful and charming the entire book is. I enjoyed witnessing the Count’s friendships with various hotel staff evolve over the decades. The depictions of the cuisine were drool-inducing, and the man certainly appreciated his spirits and a good bottle of wine. Some of the antics Rostov got away with were a riot, though he always maintained his gentlemanly composure. Count Rostov and Towel’s clever writing will have me recommending this book to everyone I know.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

Gentleman Signature


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