What I’ve Been Reading

Oh, hello there, reader. My sister has done an admirable job of keeping up the book talk here at Gun In Act One, while I’ve been buried under a mountain of work, but it’s high time I reported in on what (little) I’ve been reading.

  1. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche – this book came into my life last summer.  I finally picked it up one night recently, which turned out to be perfect timing. Bertsche’s memoir is about finding that she hasn’t established a real, solid friendship in her city after two years of living there – and she chronicles her quest to change that by going on 52 friend dates over the course of the year. While I’m not about to add that challenge to my to-do list, I did come away with plenty to think about in terms of the effort it takes to make friends in your twenties thirties.
  2. mwfSome work books. Okay, I won’t go into everything I’ve read recently about workplace culture and communications, but here’s one: The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. I know business books are not for everyone, but books are my go-to for just about everything. This one was recommended to me, and I dug it.advantage
  3. The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy – while Amanda has long professed her love for Beach Music, this was my first Pat Conroy novel, though it will not be my last. I started this while J & I were headed to vacation in Charleston, and I finished en route back to the midwest. I loved the parts of the book that read as a love letter to the holy city. I loved the rest of the book too – a heartbreaking and fascinating and devastating look into the friendship between four boys in a military college in the 1960s.  


What have you been reading this summer?

Review: The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins

Published June 16th 2015 by Crown

Hardcover, 388 pages

Source: Blogging for Books


From Goodreads…

Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

I’ll be honest, if you give me a book and compare it to a Neil Gaiman book then I am most likely going to take a chance on it. So when I heard Gaiman comparisons and read that this was about a creepy library I couldn’t pass up a chance to read The Library at Mount Char.  I think this is the strangest book I have ever read – stranger than a Gaiman book for sure!  I mean, we have a male murderer who wears a tutu all the time – and that is no where near the strangest thing in this book.   I don’t know that I agree with the comparisons to Gaiman, it wasn’t on that level for me, but it was a really entertaining read.  

To go back to the beginning – the Library is inhabited by 12 librarians – each of whom has a separate catalog- and their Father. To name a few of the librarians: David’s catalog is war and fighting, Jennifer’s is healing, Michael speaks with animals of all kinds, Margaret can talk to the dead, and Carolyn’s catalog is all of the languages on Earth ever spoken.  No one is allowed to delve into a subject that is not in their catalog, if you do the punishment is terrible.  The books in the Library are even color coded by subject so there can be no innocent mistakes – though I’m not sure there are any innocents in the Library.  

When we meet Carolyn she is “blood-drenched and barefoot” and she’s smiling about it.  Her Father is missing and the Library has locked everyone out.  Carolyn has to work with her siblings to figure out who might be acting against their Father and how to find their way home.  This is not a book for the squeamish.  Once you get past the gore and the violence (and the tutu) though there’s humor and hope, bravery and kindness, and a library that sounds kind of amazing despite the scariness.  

I’ve realized the best comparison I can think of – The Usual Suspects, a movie I completely love.  


Something about the feeling of “WHAT THE EFF just happened” that you have at the end of the movie combined with the realization that every piece of the plot was nearly perfectly orchestrated – that’s kind of how I felt at the end of The Library at Mount Char.  No one realizes they’re being manipulated until it’s too late.  I have to say I loved the revelation of where the title came from – loved how it came about!  I was really impressed at how Hawkins wrapped all his threads of the story around in the end – I’m very curious to see where he’d go if there is a sequel in the works.  I would love to know more about the catalogs- not David’s though. I’m done with him and his tutu.  

Shania at Shania Reads was one of the bloggers that had me curious to read this book and had a fun Q&A with Hawkins.  If you want more about this book you should definitely check it out here!

Basically to sum this up- this book was crazy, it was magical, it was violent, it was funny, it was smart.  You should read it!  I’m going to need to read it again soon so you should talk to me about it!

4 stars!

Thank you Blogging for Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: The Diviners

The Diviners, Libba Bray (The Diviners #1)

Hardcover, 592 pages

Published September 18th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Source: Chicago Public Library


From Goodreads

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

This was my first Libba Bray book but it pos-i-tute-ly will not be my last.  Yes, it did take me a bit to get used to the Roaring Twenties language here, but I really enjoyed this book in the end.  Evie O’Neill is easy to adore.  Our Evie is sent in disgrace from her hometown in Ohio to live with her Uncle Will in New York City. Will runs the “Museum of the Creepy Crawlies” and is an expert on the occult.  Thank goodness he is, because the ultimate in dark creepy crawlies is murdering New Yorkers and trying to take over the world. Evie has a secret gift, but up until this time she’s really only used it for entertainment.  Will, his assistant Jericho, and her friend Mabel make Evie realize she can do some good in the world and still play the part of a New York City socialite.  

This book is loooong – but in the end it felt definitely worth the time reading because Bray has it packed with characters running all over New York.  Aside from Jericho and Mabel, Evie falls in with a Ziegfeld dancer, Theta and her roommate Henry; Memphis, a Harlem numbers runner; and Sam – who begins by pickpocketing Evie and ends up working at the Museum with a hidden agenda of his own.  Evie is definitely the star of the show – and as I said she is a fantastic character.  She grows up as the book goes on, but never loses her sense of adventure and eagerness to experience the world.  She’s much more than the good time girl she appears to be.  

I loved the completely different sides of New York City that Bray takes the reader to.  I really felt I was there in the 20’s – in a speakeasy, on the docks, in Grand Central Station.  The Diviners will scare you – not just with the murders, but with the talk of eugenics – I was completely creeped out at times.  Then there are the Diviners themselves!  I loved how every character that we meet with a magical talent is different.  How will they work together?  Or will they not work together at all?   I cannot wait to see where this series goes!  

So we have murder, we have magic, we have romance and we have the Roaring 20’s – all in one book.  If any of these appeal to you get to reading!

4 stars!

Next on my list is to review the sequel Lair of Dreams which is out tomorrow!

I simply cannot finish these books

This is Your Life Harriet Chance

Expected publication: September 8th 2015 by Algonquin Books

Hardcover, 304 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley



With her husband Bernard two years in the grave, seventy-nine-year-old Harriet Chance sets sail on an ill-conceived Alaskan cruise only to discover through a series of revelations that she’s been living the past sixty years of her life under entirely false pretenses. There, amid the buffets and lounge singers, between the imagined appearance of her late husband and the very real arrival of her estranged daughter midway through the cruise, Harriet is forced to take a long look back, confronting the truth about pivotal events that changed the course of her life.  

Stopped at 86%

Oh Harriet, how I wanted to love your story.  I was so excited based on the synopsis.  That cover is so great! The story – so depressing.  Harriet’s story is told in the format of the long ago “This is your life…” format and we move back and forth throughout to get all the stages of Harriet’s life.  This took a bit of getting used to, but I was ok with it.  Harriet’s children think she’s falling into dementia because she is talking to the ghost of her husband Bernard.  I liked Bernard’s appearances!  I appreciate that he was trying to stick around to help Harriet deal with some hard news as he sounded like a real jerk in his life.  I didn’t quite get the 2 short chapters with Bernard by some ghostly supervisor being scolded for making the efforts to communicate with Harriet.  Either make Bernard an active character or don’t.  Let him just be a ghost – or flesh out his story line in the in between.  

Spoilers ahead

Where I had to put this book down was at the point when Harriet is looking back on her childhood molestation by a friend of the family.  Not my favorite topic but I would have gotten through it for a good book – what made me so mad that I shut off my kindle was our narrator suggesting 9 year-old Harriet should have done more to stop the abuse.  Yes, Harriet was a child perfectly poised for a predator – eager for approval and compliant with adults – was there a need to blame her though?  Was the narrator Harriet herself going through her guilt and shame?  Maybe – but I am honestly too angry to keep reading to find out.  I thought about finishing – but it would be reading through a hate lens and that’s not fun at all.  On to the next book! 


Let Me Explain You, Annie Liontas

Published July 14th 2015 by Scribner

Hardcover, 352 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

LET ME EXPLAIN YOU begins with a letter: Stavros Stavros Mavrakis-Greek immigrant, proud owner of the Gala Diner, having had a premonition of death and believing he has just ten days left to live, sends an email to his estranged ex-wife and three grown daughters in which he lays out his last wishes for each of them. He then sets about preparing for his final hours. With varying degrees of laughter and scorn, his family and friends dismiss his behavior as nothing more than a plea for attention, a mid-life crisis of sorts, but when Stavros disappears without explanation, those closest to him-particularly his eldest daughters Stavroula and Litza-are forced to confront the possibility of his death and the realities of their loss.

This was a weird book for me.  It times it felt like there were two different books happening.  We have Stavros who had a dream – and then found a goat – and now he thinks his death is imminent.  I found Stavros dislikeable and really kind of offensive at times.  We also have his three adult daughters who all seem pretty unhappy in their own lives.  They’re angry on top of unhappiness thanks to the extra drama that Stavros brings with his email of last wishes.  Liontas takes us back and forth in time from the present and through Stavros’ marriages and the dysfunctional family stages.  These family relationships really just made me sad and confused as well and I had to put this book aside.  Part of my inability to read this one could have been my own mindset with life outside of books, but I haven’t picked Let Me Explain You up in at least 3 weeks and I’m not missing it.  Maybe someday I’ll come across this again and finish the book – but it’s not for me right now.  

If you’ve read this one and enjoyed it I’d love to hear more about why!  Anyone?    

Thank you Algonquin Books and to Scribner and NetGally for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion.

Top Ten Authors I Must Buy

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday from the Broke and the Bookish is the 10 Authors you auto-buy.  I’ve been on a reduced shopping plan for a while due to 1) Grad school tuition and then 2) Child tuition so I don’t have 10 but here are the top of my list!  A harder topic for me might have been who is at the top of your library hold list 🙂


  1. Seanan McGuire- I think I’ve covered this obsession yes?
  2. Mira Grant (shut up I know they’re the same person)
  3. Neil Gaiman – always and forever
  4. Cora Carmack.  I am still feeling the effects of the Silas Virus from her Rusk University series.  I cannot wait for her next book!
  5. Nora Roberts – ultimate comfort reading!
  6. Robert Gilbraith – We heart Strike! I am DYING for the new book!
  7. Deborah Deisen – We need all the Pout Pout Fish books!
  8. Katherine Locke (Finding Center just came out! You NEED it!)
  9. Renee Adhieh – I still have to review the Wrath and the Dawn – but just buy it. Then wait anxiously for the sequel with me!

Who’s on your list?

Review: Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun, Paula McLain

Published July 28th 2015 by Ballantine Book

Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley


From Goodreads

Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

After reading Megan Mayhew Bergman’s short stories in Almost Famous Women earlier this year I could not wait to start Paula McLain’s new book about Beryl Markham.  Circling the Sun begins with Markham flying from England across the Atlantic- the first woman to do so.  As she believes she might crash into the Atlantic she reflects back to her life in Kenya.  I deliberately had read nothing else about Markham so I really didn’t know if we were starting with her imagined final moments before her real death or what would happen in the end.  I am so glad I went in basically blind to what was to come.

Beryl’s memories take us to her childhood on her father’s farm in Kenya.  I really felt I was getting a view of British colonial Africa in the early 1900s.  I know that people really lived like this, but at times it felt like it had to be fiction!  I just cannot imagine trying to live with such excess next to the African savannah.  When Beryl was a child her mother took her younger brother and returned to England, sadly abandoning Beryl until she was an adult.  Beryl basically ran wild with the horses and with the local children – until she was about 16 and was pretty much left to fend for herself as an adult.  

While finding her way as a young wife and as the first woman to pursue her license to train horses Beryl fell in with the Happy Valley set and was exposed to yet another new world.  There was romance, big game hunting, lots of booze and lots of heartbreak.  The question asked was “Are you married or do you live in Kenya?”  The Happy Valley group are fascinating to read about but really unlikeable.  Its hard to believe that people really lived like that I suppose.  It was hard to keep track of who was having an affair with whom and even harder to determine who was actually in a faithful marriage!   

I wanted to both applaud Beryl and give her a hug as I was reading.  She was so brave and determined and at the same time came across as a sad figure who needed both a friend and a parent.  She was so young when she started breaking barriers!  McClain gives you Markham as a real person though, she’s flawed and she’s frightened at times, but she believes in herself and was an amazing woman.  I also was unfamiliar with the story of Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen – so I definitely need to see Out of Africa (or read it) soon.  Beryl’s side of this love triangle was kind of maddening for me and also so very sad and I want to see the relationship from both women’s sides.  

I very much want to read Markham’s own book about her life now, West with the Night.  I would love to hear her own words of her adventures.  She certainly did nothing by half measures.  McClain completely brought Markham to life for me and hers is a story I need more of. 4 stars!

Thank you Ballantine Books and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship, Robert Kurson

Published June 16th 2015 by Random House

Hardcover, 304 pages

Source: Goodreads giveaway


From Goodreads

Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men—John Chatterton and John Mattera—are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister’s exploits would have been more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s, but his story, and his ship, have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history—it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates—like Bannister—that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

Yo ho yo ho! It felt like fate that I won this ARC of Pirate Hunters just as my boss recommended that I read Kurson’s first book Shadow Divers – that one it is on my TBR now because Pirate Hunters totally held me captive!  Sorry- well kind of sorry.  Pirate John Bannister was quite a man.  He had been a successful British merchant captain when he all of a sudden turned pirate with his ship and ended up being hunted down by the British Navy.  His ship was sunk -possibly filled with treasure – in the Caribbean.  Kurson could really only speculate about what caused Bannister to completely change his life – but it was totally fascinating to read about the golden age of piracy and what could have spurred such a change in direction.  

Pirate hunters Chatterton and Mattera brought Bannister back to life as they tried to find the Golden Fleece.  I was so impressed at the depth to which they immersed themselves into Bannister as a man.  I wouldn’t have expected the men diving for treasure to be students of history – and that was my mistake.  Kurson details the incredible research that Chatterton and Mattera had to do to find any location where the Golden Fleece might have gone down.  Finding primary sources at libraries in Europe sounds just as amazing to me as the actual diving!  I was on edge every time they were out in the water waiting to hear what they might find.  The reader goes reader back and forth from the history of the ship and of the golden age of piracy to the personal histories of Chatterton and Mattera -and they were nearly as interesting as Bannister himself.  I loved this quote from a treasure hunter Chatterton and Mattera went to for help:

Treasure shows who you really are.  It strips away every facade you’ve  constructed,

every story you believe about yourself, and reveals the real you.

That kind of gave me the chills – and now I want to learn to deep sea dive of course.  I am slow with reading non-fiction but this moved fast and I wanted more of this story!  I hope to eventually read some more of what happened with their discovery and I definitely need to read up on piracy!

4 stars!

Thank you Random House and Goodreads for this First Reads giveaway copy!

Library of Souls Tour and Giveaway!

Are you a peculiar reader?


Ransom Riggs’ fantastic and photographically bizarre trilogy is coming to a close next month.   I adored Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and I reviewed the sequel Hollow City here.  I can’t wait to see how this series ends!

Quirk Books wants to send YOU to see Ransom Riggs on tour!   Basically what you need to do is:

  • Snap a selfie of your most peculiar costume and send Quirk Books a link.
  • Tag your photo with the #StayPeculiar hashtag.
  • Visit the Library of Souls page for all the info!

But before you go do that Quirk is giving me this super fun #StayPeculiar tote to give away too!

StayPeculiar Tote

Enter this Rafflecopter link  and good luck Peculiar readers!


Important stuff:  US ONLY, ENDS 08/17 @ 12am/c.  Winner has 48 hours to respond to my email or I will draw another.

Review and Giveaway: In a French Kitchen

In a French Kitchen: Tales and Tradition of Everyday Home Cooking in France, Susan Herrmann Loomis

Published June 16th 2015 by Gotham

Hardcover, 320 pages

Source: ARC received from publisher


From Goodreads:

With In a French Kitchen, Loomis—an expat who long ago traded her American grocery store for a bustling French farmer’s market—demystifies in lively prose the seemingly effortless je ne sais quoi behind a simple French meal.

One by one, readers are invited to meet the busy people of Louviers and surrounding villages and towns of Loomis’s adopted home, from runway-chic Edith, who has zero passion for cooking—but a love of food that inspires her to whip up an array of mouthwatering dishes—to Nathalie, who becomes misty-eyed as she talks about her mother’s Breton cooking, then goes on to reproduce it. Through friends and neighbors like these, Loomis learns that delicious, even decadent meals don’t have to be complicated.

Are French cooks better organized when planning and shopping? Do they have a greater ability to improvise with whatever they have on hand when unexpected guests arrive? The answer to both is: Yes. But they also have an innate understanding of food and cooking, are instinctively knowledgeable about seasonal produce, and understand what combination of simple ingredients will bring out the best of their gardens or local markets.

This was a delicious read!  Susan Herrmann Loomis shares what she has learned living in France for years; and not just cooking French cuisine – but eating her fair share of it as well.  Loomis tells stories from her own kitchen and also those of her French friends.  Basically I want to move to France now so I can shop daily in my own village from my own produce market, cheesemonger and boulangerie.  Let’s be honestly, my life would be complete with my own cheesemonger.  I also clearly need my own French friends to teach me to cook the way that Loomis describes and invite me to dinner.

In a French Kitchen is full of stories about learning to cook with the kitchen you have (much smaller than an American kitchen) and the delightful sounding ingredients available.  How to stretch a meal for an unexpected dinner party – solved!  What to serve for dessert – last minute cake!  What to do with those leftovers- yummy!  How to find your best bread or best cheese – now I know.  This wasn’t a book to sit down and read cover to cover I’d say, but definitely one to turn to when you’re in the mood to cook or just read a chapter or two.

Each chapter is also filled with helpful tips about cookware and product selection – definitely something I can see myself going back over when I’m getting ready to cook.  The attention to detail was impressive – I lost count of the number of steps Loomis went through simply to prepare a salad.  Yet it really wasn’t too daunting for the untrained home cook.  I really plan to try a few of these recipes – such as:

Sweet Beet and Goat Cheese Towers

Roast Apple and Pear Chicken

Mushrooms and Chorizo

And I could go on!  I was going to pass my copy on but now I refuse.

Because I can’t let go of my copy of In a French Kitchen Gotham has kindly offered a copy for a giveaway.  Important question to answer here- if you had to give up one thing which would it be — Chocolate or Cheese?  

Giveaway to close 8/14 at midnight and I’ll pick a random number to win.


Thank you so much Gotham for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Fairy Tale Retellings

Today we’re linking with the Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday and this list is my heaven:  Fairy Tale Retellings


I have to break this list into two sections: 1) Fairy tale retelling’s that I’ve loved and 2) Those that I still need to read!

I’ve had a really good year for reading fairy tale retellings 4 of my top 5 are from 2015!

Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Wrath and the Dawn– I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this but let me just say this is the first book I received an ARC of and bought.  So I loved it that much.

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge(review to come)

Indexing by Seanan McGuire.  All the fairy tales in one and of course kind of bizarre as only McGuire would do.  The second installment of this bi-weekly series cannot come to me soon enough.

To read:

Basically everything by Robin McKinley is on my TBR.  I think I’ll start with the Hero and the Crown so I can get to the sequel which my friend Chrissy highly recommended!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  I’m waiting to binge on this whole series once it’s done.

After Alice by Gregory Maguire.  I know everyone has read Wicked by now basically, but I liked some of Maguire’s other retellings much more.  I am excited to see where he goes with Alice.

Never Never by Brianna Shrum, Peter Pan from Hook’s perspective sounds super cool.  Maybe I should read the original Peter Pan first though.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.  Curses and swans and fair folk- I need to get to the library.

Give me more fairy tales I need to read!  Link me up to your list!