Thursday, October 11, 2018

Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Blurb from Goodreads:
Susan Orlean, hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post and the acclaimed bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief, reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution—our libraries.

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual false alarm. As one fireman recounted later, “Once that first stack got going, it was Goodbye, Charlie.” The fire was disastrous: It reached 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scene, but over thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her life-long love of books and reading with the fascinating history of libraries and the sometimes-eccentric characters who run them, award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean presents a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling story as only she can. With her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, she investigates the legendary Los Angeles Public Library fire to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives. To truly understand what happens behind the stacks, Orlean visits the different departments of the LAPL, encountering an engaging cast of employees and patrons and experiencing alongside them the victories and struggles they face in today’s climate. She also delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from a metropolitan charitable initiative to a cornerstone of national identity. She reflects on her childhood experiences in libraries; studies arson and the long history of library fires; attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; and she re-examines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the library over thirty years ago. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books—and that they are needed now more than ever.

Filled with heart, passion, and unforgettable characters, The Library Book is classic Susan Orlean, and an homage to a beloved institution that remains a vital part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country and culture.
My Review:
I don't typically read nonfiction but I can't stay away from everything Susan Orlean writes.  She is so lyrical that her nonfiction is like reading poetry.  I absolutely loved her latest, which is about the Los Angeles central library.  From its origins to a fire that nearly destroyed the entire thing to the present it is as much about the heart of Los Angeles as it about what goes into running a library.  So many things that I never thought about!  Plus, I loved her exploration into the fire - such a horrible and catastrophic event that never had a real resolution but still feels fresh and devastating even today.  You will not be disappointed by reading this beautiful book!

The Library Book comes out next week on October 16, 2018, you can purchase HERE!  I definitely recommend this one, even for those of us that don't typically read nonfiction.
Our visits to the library were never long enough for me. The place was so bountiful. I loved wandering around the bookshelves, scanning the spines until something happened to catch my eye. Those visits were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn't like going to the store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I wanted and what my mother was willing to buy me, because I could have anything I anted in the library.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Review: Winter In Paradise (Paradise #1) by Elin Hilderbrand

Blurb from Goodreads:
Spend the coldest days of winter on a Caribbean beach with New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand. 

Join New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand on the stunning beaches of St. John for the beginning of her thrilling new winter series-The Paradise. Welcome to Paradise, the first book in the Paradise series, has everything that readers have come to know and love about an Elin Hilderbrand novel, plus a healthy dose of intrigue. Irene Steele’s idyllic life-house, husband, family-is shattered when she is woken up by a late-night phone call. Her beloved husband has been found dead, but before Irene can process this tragic news, she must confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death. He was found on St. John island, a tropical paradise far removed from their suburban life. Leaving the cold winter behind, Irene flies down to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of St. John only to make another shocking discovery: her husband had a secret second family. As Irene investigates the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sand beaches of St. John’s. This exciting first book in the Paradise series will transport readers to a new beach locale-another world that Elin knows as well as her beloved Nantucket-and have them longing for winter.
My Review:
I really love Elin Hilderbrand's Winter series so I was super excited for this new series, her first books not set on Nantucket!  And this first book does not disappoint!  By the end, I did not want to it be over and I wish I already had book 2! You will immediately be sucked into this story and these new characters.  I can already tell Ayers is going to be a favorite of mine!  This is a perfect beach read if you're lucky enough to escape winter or a perfect read for by the fire.  I already want to re-read it and I can't wait for more! Elin's new series lives up to all of my high expectations! 

Winter in Paradise comes out soon on October 9, 2018, you can purchase HERE!  This will definitely cure your winter blues and I can't wait for more of this series!
He's on his way to a five-flavor freak-out, which is how their father used to describe Cash's tantrums growing up. It makes no sense that Cash--who doesn't have an ambitious or competitive bone in his body, who skis for a living-- is so high-strung emotionally, while Baker, who thrives on pressure and tension, tends to be pretty sanguine no matter what.  And yet that's the way it is.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Review: Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

Blurb from Goodreads:
From the author of the “compelling” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) and critically acclaimed Everything You Want Me to Be, a riveting and suspenseful thriller about the mysterious disappearance of a boy and his stunning return ten years later.

There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later...the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.
My Review:
This wasn't as good as I was hoping but it was definitely unique!  And now I REALLY want to visit Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota! It's hard to even put this into a genre - not really a mystery or thriller, I guess more literary fiction than anything.  I was expecting a bit more and to crawl inside the characters' minds a bit more but it was still good. 

Leave No Trace came out earlier this month on September 4, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  I really loved Mindy Mejia's release from last year, Everything You Want Me To Be and you can read my review HERE.
It was dark as I coasted down the hill from Congdon toward the giant shadow of Superior. The entire city of Duluth, Minnesota, clung to the side of an ancient basalt ridge, fighting the slope toward the water, and you knew you were close to my neighborhood when the pavement started buckling like waves on a high wind. Paint peeled off crooked porches where old couches and lawn chairs face the giant warehouses lining the docks. Lincoln Park was a hop,skip, and a world away from Canal Park, where tourists snapped pictures of the lift bridge, took their sightseeing cruises, and ate their fennel and watermelon salads. We didn't get a lot of fennel south of Piedmont.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Review: His Favorites: A Novel by Kate Walbert

Blurb from Goodreads:
From the highly acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award finalist and author of A Short History of Women, a timely and propulsive novel about a teenaged girl, a beloved English teacher, and his dark, open secret.

It seemed harmless enough. They were having fun, three teenaged girls speeding on a golf cart through the greens, at night, drunk. The cart crashes and one of the girls, Stephanie lands violently in the rough, killed instantly. Neither the driver, Jo, nor the other friend is physically injured.

Jo—an instant social pariah—flees her hometown and enrolls in Hawthorne, a prestigious boarding school, far away from the stigma of the accident. Her past weighing on her conscience, Jo is determined to make things right. Then she encounters the charismatic English teacher. 

This fiercely urgent story reveals the interior life of a young woman reeling from trauma and trying to make sense of her treacherous new world and its betrayals. Walbert, who brilliantly explored a century of women’s struggle for rights and self-fulfillment in her award-winning A Short History of Women, limns the devastating, all-too-common violations of vulnerability and aspiration. From the publisher of the classic A Separate Peace, His Favorites is a taut, heartbreaking novel by a “wickedly smart writer” (The New York Times Book Review) whose work is “fascinating, moving and significant” (The Washington Post).
My Review:
Um, I feel like this wasn't finished - like only half a book.  It was so short and it jumped around so much between past and present.  I suppose it might even be charitable to call this a novella? It seemed like and read like a journal, a draft of a testimony, some stray thoughts that were the beginnings of an outline of a novel.  So many unformed thoughts, so many stories left hanging and unfinished. Abandoned. I wish there were more -- more explanation, more words, more finality.  

His Favorites came out earlier this week on August 14, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.
"You should treat your words with more," he said.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"And never apologize," he said. "What is it with you girl always apologizing? As if everything is your fault--the Fall of Rome, the Crusades, Watergate, we men the cause of every great fuckup in history and you girls the sorry, sorry magpies. Apology parrots. Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry," he said, his voice falsetto.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1) by Chloe Neill

Blurb from Goodreads:
In the first thrilling installment of Chloe Neill's spinoff to the New York Times bestselling Chicagoland Vampires series, a new vampire will find out just how deep blood ties run.

As the only vampire child ever born, some believed Elisa Sullivan had all the luck. But the magic that helped bring her into the world left her with a dark secret. Shifter Connor Keene, the only son of North American Central Pack Apex Gabriel Keene, is the only one she trusts with it. But she's a vampire and the daughter of a Master and a Sentinel, and he's prince of the Pack and its future king.

When the assassination of a diplomat brings old feuds to the fore again, Elisa and Connor must choose between love and family, between honor and obligation, before Chicago disappears forever.
My Review:
I [mostly] loved the Chicagoland Vampires series so I was pretty intrigued and excited for this spin-off featuring the "heirs" of all of our favorite characters from that series.  That being said, maybe it's too soon?  I don't know but this book had all the things I didn't love about the series - a bit cheesy, over the top and hard to follow the minutiae.  I will keep reading to see if it improves because I know the capability of this author and these subjects and there was enough of a spark of an idea that could work.  But his first book wasn't quite the bang I was hoping for . . .  

Wild Hunger came out yesterday on August 14, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  Let's hope this series improves as it continues!
"It's not a risk-free idea," she admitted. "But what's the other option? We sit around while Riley's in lockup?"
"We could end up dead." 
"That's true for you every time the sun rises. The only thing that matters is what you do in the dark."

Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: The Line That Held Us by David Joy

Blurb from Goodreads:
From critically acclaimed author David Joy comes a remarkable novel about the cover-up of an accidental death, and the dark consequences that reverberate through the lives of four people who will never be the same again.

When Darl Moody went hunting after a monster buck he’s chased for years, he never expected he’d accidentally shoot a man digging ginseng. Worse yet, he’s killed a Brewer, a family notorious for vengeance and violence. With nowhere to turn, Darl calls on the help of the only man he knows will answer, his best friend, Calvin Hooper. But when Dwayne Brewer comes looking for his missing brother and stumbles onto a blood trail leading straight back to Darl and Calvin, a nightmare of revenge rips apart their world. The Line That Held Us is a story of friendship and family, a tale balanced between destruction and redemption where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching to those you love. What will you do for the people who mean the most, and what will you grasp to when all that you have is gone? The only certainty in a place so shredded is that no one will get away unscathed.
My Review:
The last David Joy book I read, Where All Light Tends to Go, was one of my favorites of the year in which I read it. So, of course, I had high expectations for this one and I have to say that they fell a bit . . . flat.  Don't get me wrong - the writing was great and I think the character development was better than most but it almost was too over the top.  The stereotypes, the reactions, the story - it almost felt like a parody.  Whereas the last book I read by this author felt unique, authentic and deeply personal and real, this one just felt cobbled together and almost written by an outsider looking in.  It was a fast read but it left my heart with a bit of a hole because it could have been so much more.

The Line That Held Us comes out tomorrow on August 14, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  
All his life there'd been a thoughtlessness that came on before the kill. It was something hard to explain to anyone else, but that feeling was on him now as he braced the rifle against the trunk of the oak and tried to steady his aim, a mind whittled back to instinct.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: The Drama Teacher by Koren Zailckas

Blurb from Goodreads:
By the New York Times bestselling author of Mother, Mother and Smashed, a propulsive new thriller featuring a devious and unreliable narrator who will do anything to give her family a better life

Gracie Mueller is a proud mother of two and devoted wife, living with her husband Randy in upstate New York, her life complicated by the usual stressors and tedium—young children, marriage, money—and she’s settled down comfortably enough. But Gracie, underneath all that’s marked her life as average, has a lot to hide about where she’s from, who she is, and who she’s been. And when Randy’s failing career as a real estate agent makes finances tight, their home goes into foreclosure, and Gracie feels she has no choice but to return to the creatively illegal and high-stakes lifestyle of her past in order to keep all that she’s worked so hard to have. 

Gracie learned from her manipulatively charming father how to steal identities in order to survive, and she eases back into her routine of lying and cheating with a wicked skillset and gritty resolve. Things begin to slip out of her control, though, when her web of deceit lands her a job as a private school drama teacher--a role that demands emotional honesty--and soon more questions about the truth of her past are raised, including all the ones she never meant to, or even knew to, ask. 

Written with the style, energy, and penetrating insight that made her memoir Smashed a bestselling phenomenon, Koren Zailckas's next novel confirms her growing reputation as a psychological novelist that can stand up to the best of them.
My Review:
This was really good.  I enjoyed the first half immensely even though it was slow reading for some reason.  Then it took not a bad turn but one that didn't interest me as much.  I still loved the writing of this one and the building anticipation.  The character development was sublime! Gracie Mueller was a joy to step into even despite her cold, cold heart. I definitely want to find more from this author.  Definitely a unique but well written beach read!  Unexpected but delightful!

The Drama Teacher came out earlier this week on August 7, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  
He was so square, you could wage a game of chess on him, and I reckoned he had the sort of bohemian parents that were a regional trend Some failing authority figure had left him with no other course of rebellion. When sex, drugs, and a vegetarian diet are the norm, only steady employment has shock value.
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