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Book Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

I finally made it to the top of the waiting list at the library for this book! The Wonder is similar to Donoghue’s earlier novel Room in that the main storyline of this book takes place in one room, but the storyline is completely different…
We follow the tale of a nurse, Lib, assigned to observe a young girl who is said to be able to live without eating anything. Donoghue artfully allows the reader to empathize with Lib as she struggles between the duties to her employer and the duties of being a nurse. We share in the frustration and at times the despair of Lib as she attempts to grasp the influence of Catholicism on her patient’s psyche; is this a tale of gullibility or a miracle? Who/what is helping this little girl? Should Lib be protecting her patient? And the questions keep coming…

What I loved most about this book was the pace and atmosphere – I wanted to know the ending almost as soon as the novel had begun. This book draws you in and will hauntyou to the finish. 4.5 Stars from me.
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Book Review: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

“A big, heartrending novel about the entangled lives of two women in 1920s New England, both mothers to the same unforgettable girl.
One night in 1917 Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle’s house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post-WWI America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea’s hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea’s abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own.
In mesmerizing prose, award-winning author Anna Solomon weaves together an unforgettable group of characters as their lives collide on the New England coast. Set against one of America’s most turbulent decades, Leaving Lucy Pear delves into questions of class, freedom, and the meaning of family, establishing Anna Solomon as one of our most captivating storytellers.” Goodreads Summary
To change it up from the thrillers I have been reading in honor of Halloween month, give this novel a try. As I have mentioned earlier, I love the novels that take place around Cape Ann so this was a plus for me.
Solomon gracefully tells the historical tale of a woman, Beatrice, who gives up her baby by a peach tree on Cape Ann. As she returns to Cape Ann, we follow her struggle to not only find herself but confront her past mistakes. On top of all of this, Beatrice is faced with the possibility of finding her daughter after all of these years when the woman who raised her baby unexpectedly appears in Beatrice’s life.
I found the development of characters in this novel superb. Each woman had her own story to tell against the background of the 1920s. Solomon intertwines the life of women across different classes with a unique lens, allowing you to relate to the struggles facing women even today.  I was amazed at everything that is packed in the novel – from unplanned pregnancy to mental illness to class prejudices.

A pleasant read; You will get lost in this story and its intimacy. Enjoy! 4 stars from me.
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Book Review: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

“Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.
Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?” Goodreads Summary
I was really excited to pick up this novel at the library as it had come highly recommended. However, I was not completely enthused with the story.  As we follow Manon through her investigations, her character is exaggerated at times and therefore, hard to relate to as a reader.
The mystery itself is interesting, complete with family drama and intrigue. I did like the use of class conflict within the investigation to add some spice, but I was left wanting. My ideal mystery novel keeps me on the edge of my seat, but this was no page-turner. Good potential, but my attention wandered during this underdeveloped story. 2.5 stars from me.

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Readathon: Opening Meme

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is today! Click here for more information: 
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
The Gentleman from Moscow (although the BFG is always a favorite of mine – my lighthearted read)
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Not really a snack, but I have thrown chili in the crockpot. That will be a perfect dinner that won’t interrupt my reading with prep time – and who doesn’t love a nice bowl of chili?
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I’m a relatively new Book Blogger that wants to share her thoughts on books. I love the book themed adventures and hope to blog about more of those in the future (I even got married in a library!) I am more of a fiction gal, being in the legal field at work means I love venturing into a different world in my free time.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my first read-a-thon, but it also happens to be my bestie’s birthday – so I have to take a break to celebrate that and wouldn’t have it any other way. That means I will be audio booking it in the car and taking a mini-break – advice I found on twitter. I rarely listen to audio books, so I am excited about trying it today – yay multitasking!!


Here is my TBR stack (I also have alternatives ready to sub in):






Happy Reading!


UPDATE:

How did you all do with the readathon? I have to say do to the bestie birthday celebrations I didn’t get to read as much as I normally would. The BFG was definitely a welcome break from the more serious tones of the other novels. Stay tuned for the related reviews…
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Book Review: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

“Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.
When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.” Summary from Goodreads
This is a great debut novel by Fiona Davis that takes inspiration from one historic building and composes a mystery and love story. The Barbizon was an actual New York Hotel for aspiring young women in the 1950s with no men allowed above the ground floor – “The Dollhouse.” As curious as I was about the actual history behind the building after reading this book, I could easily understand how Rose, a modern day resident and journalist, became curious about a reclusive neighbor, Darby.

As we learn more about Darby’s history, we begin to get swept up in the glamour of the jazz clubs and New York City in the 1950s. We also see the struggles facing young women trying to make in the big city and live up to parental expectations – get a job to get a husband. Darby is working towards both. And so the mystery deepens, what led to the death of a hotel maid and what lead Darby to become such a recluse. Who is the woman behind the veil? Rose’s determination to find out seems an easy excuse for her to avoid the similarities with her own story and the implosion of her New York City dreams. I went into this expecting more of your typical, deadly mystery, in time for Halloween, but the nature of ending took me by surprise. Four stars from me.
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Book Review: Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Nutshell has already received much attention from the book world, and rightfully so. Ian McEwan has done it again! **Please note this review contains spoilers.
“Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John’s not here. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy’s womb.
Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.” Summary from Goodreads
Nutshell is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but from an entirely novel perspective – that of a fetus.  Throughout the book McEwan has skillfully paired social commentary with intelligent humor.  This is one smart fetus, and although some have stated that they found this off-putting, I actually found it refreshing. It was an opportunity to see the humor in what we often find depressing  – the woes of today’s technology and information driven society. 
The fetus has gained his wealth of knowledge about his future world entirely through listening: listening to his mother, conversations, the BBC world service, etc. He, unfortunately, hears his mother and uncle formulate a plan to murder his own father. This leads to deep thoughts about the world that he must join. And the fetus finds himself in the midst of an existential crisis – yes, before he is even born: “Anxiously, I finger my cord. It serves for worry beads. Wait, I thought. White it lies ahead of me, what’s wrong with infantile? I’ve heard enough of such talks to have learned to summon the counterarguments. Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking class of solutions. We excite ourselves with dark thoughts in plays, poems, novels, movies. And now in commentaries. Why trust this account when humanity has never been so rich, so health, so long-lived?…” 
And on top of all of this, the fetus must struggle with his limited ability to influence the murder plot. When I was lucky enough to hear McEwan do a reading (at a lovely event organized by Harvard Book Store) McEwan described the fetus as “trustworthy” in that he simply has faith, “faith in life after birth” and remains optimistic even as his beloved parents plot against each other…

If you fancy a witty novel with Shakespeare roots, pick this up. It is not to be missed. 4.5 Stars from Me!
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Book Review: The Girl Before by JP Delaney

The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
**I received my copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you to the author and publisher for this opportunity.**
 
“In the tradition of The Girl on the Train, The Silent Wife, and Gone Girl comes an enthralling psychological thriller that spins one woman’s seemingly good fortune, and another woman’s mysterious fate, through a kaleidoscope of duplicity, death, and deception.
Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.
The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.
Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.
Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.” Summary from Goodreads
I am a big fan of the psychological thrillers, including The Girl on the Train, so the description on this one naturally intrigued me…Trust me this book definitely did NOT disappoint. You should pick up a copy! The two female storylines parallel each other in such a way that I felt a pit in my stomach almost from the very beginning, as if something is looming, watching … 
The different POVs allow you to experience each woman’s immersion into a life located in what you might call a smart house, just with extreme rules. This is no ordinary home setting. Can you imagine living without books? I can’t even fathom it and don’t think I could give up all my material possessions just for the opportunity to live in such a place. Perhaps that is why it’s so fascinating to see how Emma and Jane are both tested by these house rules, tested by the tightly controlled environment. Can they really survive this lifestyle?
It is in this house that Delaney is able to masterfully strip the characters of their materialistic needs to better examine the meaning of integrity – all while keeping you in suspense. I found myself thinking how would I live like this? You start wondering would you be true to yourself; could you handle it? Then you will struggle with whom to believe in this minimalist world – keeping you deep in thought until the very end…wondering, who is really in control here?

Four Stars from Me!
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Literary Adventure: Boston Book Fest 2016

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day for the Boston Book Festival. For those of you who don’t know about Boston Book Festival, it is a wonderful evening and day of events that are free for book lovers like me. Over 200 authors participated along with radio personalities from WBUR. 

I was fortunate enough to attend the kick-off event on Friday: Storytelling for Page and Screen with Emma Donoghue, Marie Semple and Tom Perrotta, discussion led by WBUR’s Robin Young. It was fascinating listening to the different ways a novel is adapted to the screen: Whether the author themselves adapts their novel or someone else does; whether the narrator changes; is it going to be a screenplay at all? I, along with many of you, believe that the book is always better than the movie – but I had never really sat and thought about the necessity of cutting the bits we might love in order to make a complete film. Now, instead of complaining, I will recognize that the film can bring a different perspective and have a different tone – and, more importantly, that’s ok. It’s all in the way the artist chose to adapt the novel. What are your thoughts?
Saturday, I started my day wondering the many stalls and picking up some BBF2016 buttons and perhaps a few books that you will hear about later (stay tuned)

My first event of the day was Reading Like a Writer: Social Commentary.  Suzanne Berne, Meg Little Reilly, and Anne Solomon all read a part of their novels. Michelle Hoover then led an interactive discussion about the social commentary that is interwoven into each book. It was a captivating discussion because both writers and readers participated. Some of the useful comments (paraphrased) for writers included that it is important for authors to frame the problem they are trying to address, not solve it and to maintain a “psychic distance” from your characters. Another discussion of Anne Solomon’s Leaving Lucy Pearinvolved how a historical setting in a novel can in certain respects open more doors for an author to comment on society – you can stay true to the past while bringing in elements of a future perspective to make it more relevant to the reader…just some thoughts to keep in mind when you read or write your next book.
Next, I went to Fiction Keynote: Colson Whitehead Talks with Saeed Jones. Now, like many of you, I was still on the waiting list for Underground Railroad at the library, but after hearing Whitehead speak, I couldn’t resist! It was interesting to hear about the concept of this book and its development from an idea Whitehead had as a child into a famous book we have to wait on lists to get. Readers were allowed to asked questions which were…interesting?…at times, but Whitehead and Jones did an excellent job of stopping any spoilers and generating interest in the novel. I can’t wait to delve into this book!
Finally, after a lunch break, I went to Having Presence and Being Present where Amy Cuddy and Sherry Turkle discuss their findings on technology and its influence on our presence and interaction with the world with WBUR’s Robin Young. I had read Amy Cuddy’s book Presence after I heard her speak on the radio – I’m sorry I cannot remember what show she was on at the time. I was fascinated about her findings on how simply standing open to the world could improve your confidence and likewise translate into success across many fields. I rarely ever speak of Non-Fiction books, but grab this one. A few of my friends may be getting this book for Christmas (Shhhh…) I have not read Sherry Turkle’s novel Reclaiming Conversation, but it was interesting to hear the overlap between her findings about our addiction to cell phones and how we are harming the younger generations with Amy Cuddy’s observations on use of a cell phone. I didn’t want the conversation to end and I don’t think Robin Young or the audience did either.
All in all it was a great day at the Boston Book Fest and I wish I could have fit in more!!
My only critique of this event would be that the buying of books and waiting to get them signed was not always very clear. The lines seemed more like large mobs of people all trying to figure out if they were in the write place, but if you have the patience it was worth it to meet the authors (and maybe get a few extra special Christmas presents). 

Hopefully I will see you next year Boston Book Fest!
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Waiting on Wednesday #3: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

It is Waiting on Wednesday! This is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where everyone can discuss the upcoming books that they are eagerly awaiting…
The book I am waiting on is…
The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D. James
“Four previously uncollected stories from one of the great mystery writers of our time–swift, cunning murder mysteries (two of which feature the young Adam Dalgliesh) that together, to borrow the author’s own word, add up to a delightful “entertainment.”
The newly appointed Sgt. Dalgliesh is drawn into a case that is “pure Agatha Christie.” . . . A “pedantic, respectable, censorious” clerk’s secret taste for pornography is only the first reason he finds for not coming forward as a witness to a murder . . . A best-selling crime novelist describes the crime she herself was involved in fifty years earlier . . . Dalgliesh’s godfather implores him to reinvestigate a notorious murder that might ease the godfather’s mind about an inheritance, but which will reveal a truth that even the supremely upstanding Adam Dalgliesh will keep to himself. Each of these stories is as playful as it is ingeniously plotted, the author’s sly humor as evident as her hallmark narrative elegance and shrewd understanding of some of the most complex–not to say the most damning–aspects of human nature. A treat for P. D. James’s legions of fans and anyone who enjoys the pleasures of a masterfully wrought whodunit.” quoted from: Goodreads
Why I am waiting: Who wouldn’t want to read more P.D. James? I am always up for a good crime novel, especially by one of the best. I, like many others, didn’t think we would have anymore from P.D. James and am pumped that there is another mystery yet to come.

Happy Reading!
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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Continuing with my Jane Austen modernization theme (I was on vacation after all), here is one I highly recommend…

Now I realize that the story of Pride and Prejudice has been done and redone multiple times, but trust me this one is worth it. I found myself wanting to hurry up and read just so I could find out how the events in the original novel would be incorporated. It is a masterful adaptation of Pride and Prejudice complete with the modern struggles a family of females may face and characterization that is spot-on. Perhaps even more intriguing is the way Sittenfeld tackles and incorporates the class struggles facing the Bennett family in our modern, high-tech society. Above all this is a highly enjoyable read. Four stars from me. Give it a go! Happy Reading!