Library Checkout: January 2016

Seriously, I have library issues.  Thanks Shannon for starting this check-in and making me face my addiction!

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Two December books worth noting!

  • Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger  (great ending to this series! and I am totally going to miss the covers. Still not sure about steampunk)
  • Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff – WOW.  Definitely a book I’m still thinking about

January

Checked out and Read:

  • Blood Kiss by JR Ward
  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes #2) by Laurie King
  • Lumberjanes Volume #1 Beware the Holy Kitten by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
  • Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson (If you have kids get this for Valentine’s! Hedgehogs who hug – could it be cuter?!)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Breaking Bad Season 3 (Holy S&%T.  We’re only halfway through. There’s a library fine in my future)
  • Concealed in Death JD Robb (I’m all out of order and its messing me up!)

Returned Unread

  • The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
  • Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Still on my Bookshelf

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1 by  G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona
  • Nil by Lynne Matson
  • Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
  • Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (Next up for sure!)
  • DVD of This Is Where I Leave You (I loved this book!)
  • Festive in Death by JD Robb
  • Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Sussan
  • Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, MD.  (Sigh.)
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (any opinions on these books?  Babycakes loves the movies. Debating requesting a book)
  • Jurassic World DVD
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  • Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (2016 TBR I will own you!)
  • Art Institute of Chicago pass – (my favorite museum in the world!)

On Hold

  • Lady French Toast and Sir Pancake by Josh Funk
  • Breaking Bad Season 4
  • The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull
  • After the Crash by Michel Bussi
  • Obsession in Death JD Robb
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – I think Holly and Eva have convinced me to take this off the list and just buy the damn book already
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

What do you have from the library this month?  What should I put on hold when I break down and buy Tiny Beautiful Things?

Review: The Gracekeepers

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published May 19th 2015 by Crown

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

This was a very strange book.  It was I think a future on Earth in which water has taken over most of the world.  We have the damplings who live on boats vs. the landlockers who live on what islands are left or what they can build out from those islands.  North dances with her bear on a circus boat and Callanish is a Gracekeeper.  If this had been a story just about the Gracekeepers I might have been into it.  The Gracekeepers perform ritualistic burials at sea for the damplings – this was still odd but kind of beautiful.  I think more worldbuilding in the beginning might have set me up to enjoy this book more.  I felt like I was just dumped onto a boat without enough perspective.

North was born to circus life, while Callanish chose to leave her island and live in a hut at the equator to perform restings.  What exactly brought Callanish to this decision was never totally laid out which frustrated me.  North’s path seems fraught with danger and I read with a feeling of dread throughout.  Oddly enough that’s what kept me reading, but that really didn’t pay off for me.  I knew something terrible would happen, I just thought something amazing could still come from it.  The writing was beautiful at times, but this book was just not for me.  All around I just would have liked more – what was given of each character’s story could have had so much more depth and too many questions were left unanswered.

The sea was an endless battlefield, and the deeper you went the worse it got, because everything that died had nowhere to go but down.  In its darkest depths, the sea was nothing but an endless rain of bone, teeth, scales and flesh.

2 stars

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

All quotes taken from an unfinished copy in advance of publication.

Review: The Guest Room

The Guest Room, Chris Bohjalian

Published January 5th 2016 by Doubleday

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She brings their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night.

In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene, Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave, and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat.

I read The Guest Room in a day – not a stay at home reading day – granted a ridiculous train commute added to my reading time – but I worked all day and found time to finish.  That’s how compelling this book was!  Chris Bohjalian tweeted at me when I said I was in shock, “My books walk a tightrope between heartbreak and hope.  Never sure on which side they will end up.”  That’s a pretty accurate summation of my feelings at the end of this one.  Heartbroken and hopeful both.  

Richard is kind of an idiot for offering to host his brother’s bachelor party in his family home – and from that bad decision many others play out.  Another friend arranges for strippers to be at the party, but they didn’t expect the strippers to be sex slaves who kill their bodyguards and run.  I feel like this book could have been turned simply into a simple mystery with a lot of action and gore – it is what makes Bohjalian so great that this was an extremely emotional read while still tense and compelling.  

We follow Richard, his wife Kristin, and their young daughter Melissa as they each try to deal with what happened and recenter their family after such a violation of their home – both by Richard and by the murder.  We also follow Alexandra and learn how she went from an Armenian school girl to a victim of an international slavery ring.  Her story is all the more heartbreaking when you realize how disgustingly common it is.  Alexandra’s story pulls no punches – the language is graphic and her life is violent.  This was a strong juxtaposition to the chapters from the point of view of Richard’s spoiled 9 year-old.  What very different lives for these girls.  I was really surprised at how invested I felt on both sides of the story though – I worried about Richard’s future nearly as much as I worried about Alexandra.  And oh his poor wife!  How do you stay married?!  What do you do? Clearly I’m definitely still reeling from this book and the ending.  This would be a great book club book – I very much need to talk it over with someone!  

This was so incredibly different than Bohjalian’s last book Close Your Eyes Hold Hands – which I also really enjoyed and also left me emotionally all over the place.   Last, if you check out his website you can read about the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking and the work they do – check it out!

5 stars!

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

Fast Friday Review: Rebel Queen

Rebel Queen, Michelle Moran

Hardcover, 355 pages

Published March 3rd 2015 by Touchstone

Source: ARC from 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting

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When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the 1850s, it expects a quick and easy conquest. After all, India is not even a country, but a collection of kingdoms on the subcontinent. But when the British arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, expecting its queen to forfeit her crown, they are met with a surprise. Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male, one female—and rides into battle like Joan of Arc. Although her soldiers are little match against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi fights against an empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the perspective of Sita, one of the guards in Lakshmi’s all-female army and the queen’s most trusted warrior, The Last Queen of India traces the astonishing tale of a fearless ruler making her way in a world dominated by men.

I loved this book!  What I’ve read about India under the British has been only from the English perspective so I loved getting to read about India from the perspective of her own people.  The Queen of Jhansi keeps her own small service of women at arms, her Durga Dal, who are loyal only to her.  While the book description says that the this is the Queen’s story, I would say that Queen Lakshmi was amazing – but this was Sita’s story.

Sita was raised by her father to take the position in the palace – to rise from a poor village to live at the Queen’s side.  She dives right into the drama of the royal court and while she flourishes she is also trying to provide for the sister she left behind.  The tension between the British and the Indian people is high and the fallout heartbreaking.  You have to know going in that this is not going to be a happy story – but it was fascinating and wonderfully told.  

 This was my first Michelle Moran book but I will definitely be picking up her others! I’ve had my eye on Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution for a while now.  

 4 stars!

 Thank you Touchstone for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

January 19: Top Ten Books I’ve Recently Added To My TBR and the Bloggers I Blame

Today’s Broke and Bookish Top Ten list is 10 books you’ve recently added to your TBR – and I’m also including the Bloggers I can blame (er thank) for adding to my TBR!

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  1. The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon – Thanks Sarah’s Book Shelves and look out book club as I am totally picking this one later this year!
  2. The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City by Laura Tillman
  3. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (I loved his Horrorstor!)
  4. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard (Thank you Malcolm Avenue Review)
  5. Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
  6. The Widow by Fiona Barton (Thanks Cleopatra Loves Books!)
  7. The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower
  8. Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (Thanks Estella’s Revenge!) – this is in at the library and I am d-y-i-n-g to get there to pick it up.  Damn Chicago and our too cold to walk that far weather.
  9. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
  10. Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (while not a recommendation from The Paperback Princess, I thank/blame her for setting me down this path! Seriously – read Crazy Rich Asians)

What’s new on your TBR?

Review: The Forgotten Room

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Hardcover, 384 pages

Expected publication: January 19th 2016 by Berkley/NAL

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel’s portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

I was very curious to see how this book was done with 3 authors.  I think it has come across pretty clear that I am a big fan of Lauren Willig.  I have also really enjoyed what I’ve read by Beatrice Williams, but Karen White was new to me.  These ladies were great together!  I am really curious to learn more about how the writing process worked.  As we follow three women in the story, did each author write one?  The writing flowed pretty seamlessly so I am impressed if that’s what they did.  I think they’re already working on another book together and now i’m excited to learn about that project!  

We jump between time periods to meet Olive, who has begun working as a maid for the Pratt family after her architect father was disgraced by the Pratt patriarch and killed himself.  Next comes Lucy, who has fled her family’s German bakery after the death of her own parents to work as a legal secretary.  Then we have Kate, working as one of a very few female doctors receiving injured American soldiers returning from the front in Europe.  

I loved that the Pratt Mansion was just the first connection between generations.  I could see this beautiful old house in my mind as it transitioned from the design on paper created by Olive’s father, to the cold family manor where she served as a maid, then the single women’s apartments that Lucy lived in and finally the World War II hospital that Kate worked at.  The house and the attic room were almost characters in their own right.  They held their secrets well and released them with perfect timing.  

I admit at first I was a bit confused at the transitions at first and wondering how these ladies could connect to each other – but once I figured it out I was HOOKED.  The loves were sweet and the heartaches were brutal.  The clues that the authors left us to follow outside of the house were perfect I thought.  I loved how they kept popping up with a new story in each generation.  

I don’t think every book has to have a happy ending – and sometimes they’re better for it (see Hausfrau) but I was really afraid I’d be walking away disappointed in the end.  Thankfully these ladies pulled through for me and I was happy with the ending.  I can’t decide who my favorite was still!  Perhaps I’ll have to reread and decide.   

4 stars!

Thank you Berkley/NAL and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Walk on Earth a Stranger, Rae Carson (The Gold Seer Trilogy #1)

Hardcover, 432 pages

Published September 22nd 2015 by Greenwillow Books

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

I completely loved Rae Carson’s first fantasy series, Fire & Thorns, and was ecstatic when I heard she had a new series out.  If you think you don’t read YA, I have two words for you to explain why you need to try Walk on Earth a Stranger – OREGON TRAIL.

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Yes, that Oregon Trail.  Leah Westfall has a secret ability.  She can feel gold in the earth.  No one but her parents know, and her family certainly doesn’t live like they are collecting gold by magic.  Then poor Leah faces a terrible family tragedy in Georgia and decides the best place to go is to California.  Leah becomes Lee and starts the long journey to the West.  Just like the game!  We have oxen and wagons and sadly have dysentery and other misfortunes.  But most importantly, we have Lee.  She’s a great character!  She’s brave and she’s strong, even though she’s had horrible losses and she is afraid and alone.  She isn’t waiting to be rescued – Lee is always ready to help rescue someone else. Carson made me feel like I was right there on the journey as Lee makes new friends and definitely some enemies.  It wasn’t just Lee though!  I felt really strongly (both good and bad) about her traveling companions as well.  I will say that Jefferson needs to man up a bit if he is going to hold up to Hector from Fire and Thorns (swoon!).  I was so anxious to see who would make it through each day of the journey or not.  

The research Carson did on the period completely shines through.  I did see commentary when the book came out about how Carson handles the racial issues at the times – Lee is white but her best friend Jefferson is half Cherokee to start.  There is also interaction with Indian tribes along the Trail which made me really emotional to read.  I was glad that Carson confronted the issues and forced Lee to think about what her comrades were doing.  I hope to see more discussion come from the next book.  For more – with spoilers – check out Debbie Reese’s discussion chapter by chapter.  

For being a book about a magical girl, there is definitely not a lot of magic in Walk on Earth a Stranger. This reads almost like straight historical fiction -almost.  I hope the next book goes further into what Lee can do – maybe even a why?  Is she the only person with magic?  Especially with her particular magic?!  This is an adventure I will be following closely and I’m thankful to be following it via kindle and not a wagon train!

4 stars!

Thank you Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.