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Alix and Nicky by Virginia Rounding

alix and nickySubtitle: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina

Rating: **** (4/5)

Published: St. Martin’s Press, 2011

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Nonfiction

Source: Personal Collection

I have read a number of books about the last imperial couple of Russia, but this one explored the relationship between them more than any other.  Referencing their personal letters, it explored their devotion to one another as well as their individual personalities.  It explored Alix’s temperament in relation to her invalidism and this was the first time I’ve encountered an author who presented a possible diagnosis of her maladies (porphyria, a genetic condition, exacerbated by her stressful life and inherited from her royal ancestors).  It also addressed the curious relationship between her, Anna V., and Nicky and the jealousies that were inflamed.  A large portion of the latter half focused on Alix’s letters to Nicky at army headquarters during WWI when she was at her bossiest and most influenced by Rasputin.  There was very little about their imprisonment and murders, but their legacy was addressed.  It wasn’t the most captivating biography of Nicky and Alix that I have read, but it was an essential piece of the overall cannon.



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Tetris by Box Brown

tetrisSubtitle: The True Story of the World’s Most Popular Video Game

Rating: **** (4/5)

Published: First Second, October 2016

Format: Paperback

Genre: Graphic Novel (Nonfiction)

Source: Publisher (BEA)

I’m not into graphic novels, but when a nonfiction subject was presented in this format (and the opportunity to get it signed), I was intrigued.  Learning about the whole convoluted history of a game I grew up playing was interesting, as well as the history of how playing games evolved (frontal cortex simulation).  The illustrations were helpful keeping the various characters straight as Tetris’s popularity grew outside of the USSR. With all of the various companies attempting to acquire rights for different countries and formats, the whole phenomenon spiraled out of control.  And the poor  creator Alexey basically got shafted by his government.  There were some fascinating tidbits regarding Gameboy revolutionizing handheld gaming and the pissing match between Atari and Nintendo.  The text itself was very simple, but the overall story was delivered in a captivating way.  It’s a quick read about the history of a pop culture icon.

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

tetris signed



Vegas and Loving Life!

It’s hard to believe BEA was just wrapping up a week ago!  I only had 2 days to get over my Book Hangover before dealing with tangible hangovers in Las Vegas.  Here’s a quick review of our time there.

Day 1: Travel, reuniting with my sister and her fiance, gambling, dinner, drinks, exploring, and more gambling.

Day 2: Wedding Day!  The officiant and photographer met us at the Bellagio fountains.  You can watch the video of the ceremony here.  Then plenty of celebrating and a fancy dinner out at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab.  Then more gambling and drinking.  Because Vegas.  And Alice slots.  But my sister and I have a special place in our hearts for Goldfish slots and we had a blast playing together.  Plus I won (green fish!).

Day 3:  Pool day all day.  Then we wandered over to the Venetian, where I geeked out over at Bauman’s Rare Books.  I even chatted with the gentleman on duty about some of the rarities in my collection.  Lo and behold he’s a Ph.D!

Day 4: Checking out and travelling home.

It was all such a special experience, especially witnessing the wedding.  If that’s not enough excitement, in one week we will be moving into our new house!  I have a few quick reviews that I will schedule for this week, but the week or two after will probably be too busy to post much.  But I’ll try!

With all of the amazing experiences of this month (so far and to come), I am loving life and all of these incredible adventures!


BEA Acquisitions and Giveaway

Happy Monday everyone!  I am leaving for Vegas to celebrate my sister’s wedding to her charming soon-to-be husband.

Since my darling girls Katie and Marisa snagged me 2 copies of Kieth Donohue’s new book, The Motion of Puppets, I’m giving away my extra copy!  Please leave a comment below for a chance to win. Giveaway ends Midnight Sunday, May 22nd.

motion of puppets

I’m still recovering from my book/BEA hangover, but I finished cataloging all that I acquired.  I figured out that if I paid full cover price for everything I brought home, I would have spent $1,129.16.  So I definitely got my money’s worth.

Here’s the full list of all the books I got signed:

  • “Haunted Destiny” by Heather Graham
  • “The Secrets She Kept” by Brenda Novak
  • “Bone Gap” by Laura Ruby
  • “We Are Unprepared” by Meg Little Reilly
  • “Only Daughter” by Anna Snoekstra
  • “Last Seen Leaving” by Caleb Roehrig
  • “Everything We Keep” by Kerry Lonsdale
  • “The Life She Wants” by Robyn Carr
  • “Healing Maddie Brees” by Rebecca Brewster Stevenson
  • “I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around by Ann Garvin
  • “Pushing Perfect” & “Playlist for the Dead” by Michelle Falkoff
  • “Fractured” by Catherine McKenzie
  • “In Twenty Years” by Allison Winn Scotch
  • “Field of Graves: by J.T. Ellison
  • “When I’m Gone” by Emily Bleeker
  • “Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco
  • “Don’t You Cry” by Mary Kubica
  • “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult
  • “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles
  • “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore
  • “Fates and Traitors” by Jennifer Chiaverini
  • “Mischling” by Affinity Konar
  • “Here I Am” by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • “The House Guest” by Kim Brooks
  • “The Excellent Lombards” by Jane Hamilton
  • “Summit” by Henry Farthing
  • “Truevine” by Beth Macy
  • “Tetris” by Box Brown
  • “Tomes of Terror” by Mark Leslie
  • “Exoneree Diaries” by Alison Flowers
  • “Never Leave Your Dead” by Diane Cameron
  • “John Lennon vs. the USA” by Leon Wildes
  • “The Innocent Killer” by Michael Griesbach
  • “Bullet Riddled” by Grant M. Whitus

Have a good week everyone, I’ll talk to you soon!


BEA – All the Details!

If I were to create a soundtrack for the three days spent at BEA, it would include  (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and Hurts So Good (because it was worth the sore feet and tired muscles).  I’m still geeking out over what an incredible experience it was!  I’m honored to have such an amazing life and so many awesome new friends.  So without further ado:

Day One, Wednesday

  • I was lucky enough to have a Metra travelling companion, my fellow suburbanite Marisa from The Daily Dosage.  We hit it off right away on our first ride into the city, and I am so grateful she stuck with me throughout the week!  Once we cabbed to McCormick, we registered and got our badges.

  • We then met up with Florida from 3 R’s BlogKim from Sophisticated Dorkiness, and Katie from Words For Worms and had lunch.
  • When the floor opened, I wandered for a while with Kim, and we got a few books from Basic Press.  When we saw a friend with a copy of Emma Donoghue’s new book, we realized we missed it when we picked up Truevine, so we hustled back to the Hatchett booth and scored the LAST TWO COPIES sitting on the floor!
  • I was lucky enough to be the very first person in line for the Jonathan Safran Foer signing!  I spotted Greg from New Dork Review of Books and finally got to meet him in person before he headed to the back of the line.  I also met a delightful woman while in line, Loretta Nyhan, and she’s a local author, so we exchanged information, and she’s going to send me a copy of her epistolary novel.  Then I met JSF and had my book signed.
  • I wandered by myself for a while, got Tomes of Terror by the nicest guy, Mark Leslie,  then I headed off to the autograph lines.  Got signed books from Erica Chapman, Harry Farthing, and Box Brown.  I also got a copy of Exoneree Diaries signed by Alison Flowers.  I even saw Scott McCreery signing in the booth next to me (apparently he won American Idol?).  Here’s the first day’s haul:
first day haul

Right pile signed

  • Then it was time for Book Blogger Happy Hour.  A big group of us hoofed it over to Reggie’s on State Street burdened with the books we acquired.  It was such a fun evening getting to know all these wonderful people including: Rachel, Shannon, Kristin, Kerry, Julianne, Kim, Florinda, Marisa, Katie, Dawn, Janani, Catherine, Annie, Jenna, April, and I’m sorry, I probably didn’t include everyone, so I apologized if I missed adding you to this list!
  • After a few cocktails, shared appetizers (fried pickles!), and hanging out with the best damn book bloggers on the planet, it was time for us locals to head home. Katie, Marisa, and I headed back to Union Station and went our separate ways.

Day Two, Thursday

  • This was by far the busiest, craziest, and most exciting day.  It started with another train ride in with Marisa (in the quiet car, dangit), then we met Katie and cabbed it back to McCormick.
  • We wandered around a bit, and the girls got half priced gift cards from Out of Print.  Then we got Alice in Wonderland tattoos at Lithographs and I bought the Alice print below.  And I finally got to meet my friend, Mira publicity manager, Emer Flounders.
  • I got more books signed by Affinity Konar, Jennifer, Chiaverini, Graham Moore (so cute!), and Leon Wildes.  I had some Beatles moments and quiet time with Marisa, then she and I had lunch with Kim, Alice, and Cassandra.
  • After lunch, Kim, Marisa and I camped out at Penguin Random House to wait for the giant biography, Victoria.  We then waited in line for Jane Hamilton, who was so nice and engaging.
  • I hit a few in-booth signings with Diane Cameron and Kim Brooks, then  stuck around the autograph lines for a while and got signed books from Allison Winn Scotch and Robyn Carr.
  • Then it was Jodi time!  The line for Jodi Picoult was already quite long when I got there 40 minutes prior, so I made myself comfortable and tweeted about it.  Then this happened (!!!!!).  When it was finally my turn, I thanked her for her tweet and since it was Thursday, I showed her a TBT from when we met in 2009!

This Happened!!!

  • I finished with Jodi’s signing at 3:20, which meant I only had 10 minutes left to hit 5 autographing lines, so I sprinted over there, and managed to get to all 5 authors:  Beth Macy, Catherine McKenzie, Michelle Falkoff (who was nice enough to sign her other book which I had brought with me), Ann Garvin, and Rebecca Brewster Stevenson.  It was a hot and fast 10 minutes and the last author I saw said I looked like I had just run a marathon.  Sure felt like it!
  • The last event of the day, I waited in line with Unruly Reader Stacey and Katie for Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow.  Us pretty ladies couldn’t leave without first hitting the photobooth.

Marisa, Julz, Katie, and Stacey

  • Another shared cab ride, and another train trip home, and here’s my haul from the day (thank heavens for wheelie suitcases and the nice folks at the bag check station):
Right pile signed

Right pile signed

Day 3, Friday

  • Train ride, cab, and back on the floor.  I realized I missed the previous day galley drop for the new Karin Slaughter, so when I went to the Harper Collins booth to inquire about it, the nice girl snuck a copy to me on the down low.  I wandered a bit with Katie and we had a few photo ops.
  • I got a copy of Bullet Riddled signed by the author, a first responder SWAT who was on the scene at Columbine.  Shit, that’s going to be heavy.
  • While Katie and I were waiting in line at Harlequin, Emma from Words and Peace found me and I got to chat with her for a bit.  I had thought we were just in line to see Mary Kubica.  To our pleasant surprise it was an entire panel of Women Thriller writers and they were an absolute delight!
  • Friday was a bit less structured and I did some aimless meandering and had some down time with Kim.  The afternoon included a few more autograph lines with Karry Maniscalco, Kerry Lonsdale, Laura Ruby, Emily Bleeker, and Caleb Roehriing.  I hadn’t used my fast pass at all, so utilized it to get Andi the Kendare Blake book.
  • While my girls were at the speed dating session, I hit up the Penguin Random House happy hour, thankyouverymuch for the beers.  By then the entire event was winding down and I was certainly feeling the effects. Marisa and Katie were sweet enough to get me a copy of Keith Donohue’s new book at their session since I missed the galley drop (and I have an extra copy to giveaway next week, so stay tuned).  After randomly running into Sheila from Book Journey multiple times throughout the day, we stopped for pictures and hugs.
  • One last cab ride back with our spirited cabby singing along with the lively Nigerian gospel music, and we were pooped! (But Marisa and I made sure to grab a Leini’s Summer Shandy for the train).
  • And just like that, the adventure was over!  Friday’s haul:
Left pile signed

Left pile signed

And who doesn't love cute totes?!

And who doesn’t love cute totes?!

Random Thoughts and Stats:

  • I acquired 50 books (but got 2 of my own signed too).
  • 16 nonfiction, 36 fiction
  • 16 unsigned, 36 signed
  • I waited for 11 in-booth signings and 19 autograph lines
  • I made more friends than I can count
  • It motivated me to be a more determined reader and a better blogger
  • I cannot express my awe and gratitude for the amazing memories I made
final haul

Left to right piles: nonfiction unsigned, fiction unsigned, nonfiction signed, fiction signed, fiction signed


BEA Snapshot and Giveaway

First the Giveaway!  I am offering a copy of Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South.  This sounds AMAZING!  And it’s not on sale until October, so this is a great opportunity!  Please leave a comment below to enter.  Giveaway ends Friday, May  at Midnight.


Whirlwind is all I can say right now, so I’m just going to include a few pics with some brief notes.  I will be posting a comprehensive summary of all the amazing people I met, links to their blogs, books I acquired, and all-around happening at some point this weekend.

First BEA Pic with my train buddy Marisa

First BEA Pic with my train buddy Marisa

Here are a few from our Book Blogger Happy Hour with Katie, Marisa, Janani, and Kim (and many others).


Alice in Wonderland Quote Temporary Tattoos

Alice in Wonderland Quote Temporary Tattoos

There was a bit of a Beatles theme going on…

This Happened!!!

This Happened!!!

Photobooth with some of my new favorite people!

Photobooth with some of my new favorite people!

Autographs from Jodi Picoult and Jonathan Safran Foer.

One more day to go!  And so many more unforgettable memories to make.


Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

don't you cryI am offering a free copy of this book!  To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post and a winner will be chosen at random.  Giveaway ends Monday, May 9th at Midnight.

Rating: **** (4/5)

Published: Mira, May 2016

Format: ARC/Hardcover

Genre: Mystery

Source: Amazon Vine/Publisher

This was my first time reading Kubica and I was not disappointed. When Quinn’s roommate goes missing, she uncovers clues that lead her to believe Esther was not the sweet, selfless person she thought she was. As Quinn tries to discover Esther’s secrets and why she would keep them from her, she realizes her paranoia is not unwarranted. Unbeknownst to Quinn, Esther’s doppelganger is prowling the streets of a sleepy Michigan town, and unsuspecting waiter Alex is immediately besotted with her. As he befriends the mystery woman, her elusiveness eventually gives way to her darker motives.

Though it wasn’t a fast-paced, high-intensity thriller, it was mildly suspenseful and I especially enjoyed the backdrop of Chicago. I didn’t always agree with how Quinn handled situations, but then again, she was relatively young and immature. Overall, it was a decent mystery.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.



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