Thanksgiving Week TBR Edition 4

Well, it’s deer hunting season in Wisconsin starting this weekend, which means my house out in the middle of nowhere will be surrounded by hunters in blaze orange…….meaning I’ll be locked inside with nothing to do but bake, sew and read! AND next week is only 2 days of school/work! AND we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in any traditional sense. So, that’s 7 days with only 2 days of work and almost no plans except ringing bells for Salvation Army (if you have never done this, please go register to do so immediately)……………that means LOTS of reading time!

This past week included a partial derailment from the planned TBR due to my mood being absolutely NOT fit for darker books –  I immediately read the Irish cozy I received in the mail after the last TBR post published and I replaced 2 of the titles from last week’s TBR with a sweet April 2018 middle grade story for Kid Lit Exchange and a light romance releasing November 21 from Gallery Books. Honestly, no one wants me to write a review for a book I’m not in the mood for, and this time of year is so dark and gloomy that I’m finding I need things that will perk me up. Just the way it is!

For reviews of last week’s reads, head to my Instagram or Goodreads!

Now onto this week’s plan ~ we’ll see what ends up happening! As usual, all descriptions are from Goodreads.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
(Broadway Books ~ February 23, 2017)

I received this review copy in my October blogger book send from Crown Publishing and it looks amazing ~ I’m all about England + historical fiction + women’s fiction!

ChilburyFor readers of Lilac Girls and The NightingaleThe Chilbury Ladies’ Choir unfolds the struggles, affairs, deceptions, and triumphs of a village choir during World War II.

As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.

An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (Young Adult)
(Soho Teen ~ January 16, 2018)

I typically try to read my ARCs closer to release date, but I’m dying to read this one and there are a lot of other eager reviewers for Kid Lit Exchange wanting to get their hands on it! Thanks to Soho Teen for the review copy!

lovehatefiltersA searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?

Rethinking Possible: A Memoir of Resilience by Rebecca Faye Smith Galli
(She Writes Press ~ June 13, 2017)

Thanks to BookSparks for the review copy of this memoir – the author’s story looks heartbreaking!

rethinkingpossibleBecky Galli was born into a family that valued the power of having a plan. With a pastor father and a stay-at-home mother, her 1960s southern upbringing was bucolic–even enviable. But when her brother, only seventeen, died in a waterskiing accident, the slow unraveling of her perfect family began.

Though grief overwhelmed the family, twenty-year-old Galli forged onward with her life plans–marriage, career, and raising a family of her own–one she hoped would be as idyllic as the family she once knew.

But life had less than ideal plans in store. There was her son’s degenerative, undiagnosed disease and subsequent death; followed by her daughter’s autism diagnosis; her separation; and then, nine days after the divorce was final, the onset of the transverse myelitis that would leave Galli paralyzed from the waist down.

Despite such unspeakable tragedy, Galli maintained her belief in family, in faith, in loving unconditionally, and in learning to not only accept, but also embrace a life that had veered down a path far different from the one she had envisioned. At once heartbreaking and inspiring, Rethinking Possible is a story about the power of love over loss and the choices we all make that shape our lives –especially when forced to confront the unimaginable.

Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners by Natalie Rompella (Middle Grade)
(Sky Pony Press ~ November 14, 2017)

I requested a review copy of this title from Sky Pony because HELLO! Dogs + baking = 2 of my favorite things on earth! The cover is adorable and looks like it will fly off of my library shelves.

cookiecuttersMost kids would dread the start of middle school and the year-long Explorations project that comes with it, but Ana knows that her + her best friend Lily + their plan to write and sell their own cookbook is a recipe for success. Lily’s not just the perfect partner in culinary crime–she’s also the only person in the world who understands Ana’s need to wash her hands five times before picking up a spatula, and would never make fun of her for it.

But Ana and Lily’s plan for edible entrepreneurship turns into one big baking disaster when they’re assigned to different partners for their projects. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Lily seems more excited to get to know her new partner than bummed about being separated, Lily and her new friend plan to use the cookbook idea for themselves–and they didn’t even ask! Worse, Ana’s partner is Dasher, the strange new girl from Alaska, and she wants to do their project on the weirdest thing imaginable: sled dog racing.

Dasher’s dogs are scary, slobbery, and decidedly not germ-free, but Ana thinks she’s found a loophole when she agrees to bake pancakes for spectators while Dasher mushes in a local race. That is, until Dasher sprains her ankle and has to drop out of the running. Can Ana learn to mush–and overcome her anxiety–in time to save her friendships, finish her project, and compete in the big race?

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig 
(Park Row Books ~ May 2, 2017)

This is the November adult pick for the Diverse Books Club on Goodreads ~ I have had an ARC of it since this past winter and am glad to finally have this push to read it! The reviews are AMAZING.

ginnymoonTold in an extraordinary and wholly unique voice that will candidly take you into the mind of a curious and deeply human character.

For the first time in her life, Ginny Moon has found her “forever home”—a place where she’ll be safe and protected, with a family that will love and nurture her. It’s exactly the kind of home that all foster kids are hoping for. So why is this 14-year-old so desperate to get kidnapped by her abusive, drug-addict birth mother, Gloria, and return to a grim existence of hiding under the kitchen sink to avoid the authorities and her mother’s violent boyfriends?

While Ginny is pretty much your average teenager—she plays the flute in the school band, has weekly basketball practice and studies Robert Frost poems for English class—she is autistic. And so what’s important to Ginny includes starting every day with exactly nine grapes for breakfast, Michael Jackson, bacon-pineapple pizza and, most of all, getting back to Gloria so she can take care of her baby doll.

Ginny Moon is a compulsively readable and touching novel about being an outsider trying to find a place to belong and making sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up.

I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina (Young Adult Graphic Novel)
(Tu Books ~ October 10, 2017)

I received this review copy in a blogger book send from Lee and Low. I hadn’t heard of it before getting my copy, but the blurbs on the back from everyone amazing in YA make me think that it just hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves yet.

alfonsojonesAlfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.

In the first graphic novel for young readers to focus on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as in Hamlet, the dead shall speak—and the living yield even more surprises.

Foreword by Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy

Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota
(Viking Books ~ July 25, 2017)

I chose this book to review from Blogging for Books ~ it looks like a perfect read for a cold, gloomy November day! 

amandawakesupThe Devil Wears Prada meets Primary Colors in this wickedly funny debut novel about a bootstrapping young reporter who lands a plum job at a big-time cable news station and finds her ambitions and her love life turned upside down.

When Amanda Gallo, fresh from the backwater of local TV, lands the job of her dreams at FAIR News—the coveted morning anchor slot—she’s finally made it: a six-figure salary, wardrobe allowance, plenty of on-air face time, and a chance to realize her dreams, not to mention buy herself lunch. Amanda Wakes Uptakes off as Amanda feels for the first time that she can make her mom and her best friend proud and think about an actual future with her boyfriend, Charlie. But she finds her journalistic ideals shredded as she struggles to keep up with the issues in a ratings-crazed madhouse—battling for hair and makeup time, coping with her sexist (but scathingly handsome) coanchor, Rob, mixing up the headlines with pajama modeling on the street, and showing Benji Diggs, her media maestro boss, that she’s got what it takes.

As the news heats up in a hotly contested election season and a wild-card candidate, former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke, appears on the scene, Amanda’s pressure-cooker job gets hotter as her personal life unravels. Walking a knife’s edge between ambition and survival, and about to break the biggest story of her career, Amanda must decide what she’s willing to give up to get ahead—and what she needs to hold on to save herself.

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

I absolutely HAD to make time to share this book with you! It arrived in the mail last Friday night (a complimentary review copy from Harper Perennial) after I had already posted my weekly TBR post, and I immediately moved it to the top of my weekend stack. And I LOVED it! Remember how much I loved this one? And this one? Well, The Library at the Edge of the World is now added to that love fest of books for book lovers!

The Library at the Edge of the WorldThe Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
(Harper Perennial ~ November 14, 2017 ~ US EDITION)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from Goodreads)

In the bestselling tradition of Fannie Flagg and Jenny Colgan comes Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s U.S. debut about a local librarian who must find a way to rebuild her community and her own life in this touching, enchanting novel set on Ireland’s stunning West Coast.

As she drives her mobile library van between villages of Ireland’s West Coast, Hanna Casey tries not to think about a lot of things. Like the sophisticated lifestyle she abandoned after finding her English barrister husband in bed with another woman. Or that she’s back in Lissbeg, the rural Irish town she walked away from in her teens, living in the back bedroom of her overbearing mother’s retirement bungalow. Or, worse yet, her nagging fear that, as the local librarian and a prominent figure in the community, her failed marriage and ignominious return have made her a focus of gossip. 

With her teenage daughter, Jazz, off travelling the world and her relationship with her own mother growing increasingly tense, Hanna is determined to reclaim her independence by restoring a derelict cottage left to her by her great-aunt. But when the threatened closure of the Lissbeg Library puts her personal plans in jeopardy, Hanna finds herself leading a battle to restore the heart and soul of the Finfarran Peninsula’s fragmented community. And she’s about to discover that the neighbors she’d always kept at a distance have come to mean more to her than she ever could have imagined. 

Told with heart, wry wit, and charm, The Library at the Edge of the World is a joyous story about the meaning of home and the importance of finding a place where you truly belong.

Review

This is an absolutely wonderful book for every book lover on earth! I adored this story of a public library, a woman starting over, family, friends and community set in rural Ireland. The setting is fabulous, the people make my heart happy and the storyline of a librarian saving a library makes this school librarian jump for joy. The P.S. section at the end of the book includes a ton of wonderful information about the author’s background and her thoughts on the Irish setting and current sentiments about emigration and the status of Irish communities.

Now, if all of that makes me so happy, just IMAGINE how excited I was to find out that this is actually the first book in a series that was originally published in Ireland and is just now coming to the US from Harper Perennial! AND, the next 2 books in the series (Ireland editions) are available to buy in the US through Book Depository, so of course I ordered them immediately and can now binge read them the moment they arrive! YAY! The US cover is VERY different from the Irish covers ~ the Irish covers are very much in the “English cozy” style with illustrations and curly cutesy font. Both are great, but I do think this photographic cover will do amazingly well here in the states!

The next two books are titled Summer at the Garden Cafe and The Mistletoe Matchmaker ~ I very much hope they will also be released in the US!

View all of my Goodreads reviews

TBR Pile Edition 3

Screenshot 2017-11-09 12.28.58

Let’s be real ~ these TBR piles are WAY too big to read in a weekend! I’m very proud of myself that I have completed all but two of the titles on last week’s stack, though, PLUS another title that I just couldn’t help myself from picking up Wednesday night when it showed up from Book of the Month. All of those reviews are on my Goodreads and Instagram accounts!

Here is what’s on my radar for the coming weekend and week ~ this might be my most ambitious and time sensitive stack yet! Two of these HAVE to be completed before the end of next week, so I guess I’ll be starting there……and three of them release on Tuesday and I like to have them read before release date…….eeeeeeeeek!

All descriptions from Goodreads

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold #1) by Traci Chee – YOUNG ADULT
(Putnam ~ September 13, 2016)

This is my final title to read for the Librarian Battle of the Books I will be competing in next Friday night!

thereaderOnce there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
(Gallery Books ~ July 19, 2016)

This is one that has been on my TBR for a LONG time, and is now the pick for my IRL book club meeting on Thursday!

womanincabin10In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener
(Algonquin ~ November 14, 2017)

Thanks so much to Algonquin for this review copy – it looks fascinating!

strangersinbudapestBudapest: gorgeous city of secrets, with ties to a shadowy, bloody past.  It is to this enigmatic European capital that a young American couple, Annie and Will, move from Boston with their infant son shortly after the fall of the Communist regime. For Annie, it is an effort to escape the ghosts that haunt her past, and Will wants simply to seize the chance to build a new future for his family.

Eight months after their move, their efforts to assimilate are thrown into turmoil when they receive a message from friends in the US asking that they check up on an elderly man, a fiercely independent Jewish American WWII veteran who helped free Hungarian Jews from a Nazi prison camp. They soon learn that the man, Edward Weiss, has come to Hungary to exact revenge on someone he is convinced seduced, married, and then murdered his daughter.

Annie, unable to resist anyone’s call for help, recklessly joins in the old man’s plan to track down his former son-in-law and confront him, while Will, pragmatic and cautious by nature, insists they have nothing to do with Weiss and his vendetta. What Annie does not anticipate is that in helping Edward she will become enmeshed in a dark and deadly conflict that will end in tragedy and a stunning loss of innocence.

No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear – YOUNG ADULT
(Soho Teen ~ November 14, 2017)

Thanks to Soho Teen for this review copy – this YA title looks really compelling and I have read some great reviews of it!

nosaintsinkansasA gripping reimagining of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and the brutal murders that inspired it

November is usually quiet in Holcomb, Kansas, but in 1959, the town is shattered by the quadruple murder of the Clutter family. Suspicion falls on Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend, Bobby Rupp, the last one to see them alive.

New Yorker Carly Fleming, new to the small Midwestern town, is an outsider. She tutored Nancy, and (in private, at least) they were close. Carly and Bobby were the only ones who saw that Nancy was always performing, and that she was cracking under the pressure of being Holcomb’s golden girl. The secret connected Carly and Bobby. Now that Bobby is an outsider, too, they’re bound closer than ever.

Determined to clear Bobby’s name, Carly dives into the murder investigation and ends up in trouble with the local authorities. But that’s nothing compared to the wrath she faces from Holcomb once the real perpetrators are caught. When her father is appointed to defend the killers of the Clutter family, the entire town labels the Flemings as traitors. Now Carly must fight for what she knows is right.

Mean by Myriam Gurba
(Coffee House Press ~ November 14, 2017)

Thanks to Coffee House Press for this review copy – I’m so excited for this one after reading the stellar reviews in various newsletters I receive, as well as on Goodreads! It looks so powerful.

meanMyriam Gurba’s debut is the bold and hilarious tale of her coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Mean turns what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, funny, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.
We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would cut off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. We act mean because we like to laugh. Being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty. Being mean to men who deserve it is a holy mission. Sisterhood is powerful, but being mean is more exhilarating.

Being mean isn’t for everybody.

Being mean is best practiced by those who understand it as an art form.

These virtuosos live closer to the divine than the rest of humanity. They’re queers.

Army Wife: A Story of Love and Family in the Heart of the Army by Vicki Cody
(She Writes Press ~ August 16, 2016)

Thanks so much to BookSparks for this review copy! A perfect read for Veteran’s Day weekend as we honor all of those who have served in our armed forces. 

armywifeFrom the last days of the Vietnam War to the present-day war on terrorism, this story is a moving and poignant tribute to love, marriage, family, and the men and women who serve this nation. In describing her thirty-three-year journey as an Army wife, Cody gives an in-depth look at what it takes to keep a marriage strong, raise a family–oftentimes as a single parent–create a home, and face separations and loneliness amid the uncertainty and stresses that are so much a part of Army life. Over the years, Cody learns to embrace the uniqueness of her circumstances, and she finds joy, self-fulfillment, and pride in her role. But when both her sons follow in their dad’s footsteps, becoming Army Aviators and flying Apache helicopters in combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cody faces her greatest challenges as a mother and again, must balance the needs of her family with her husband’s position. Full of humor and honesty, Army Wife brings the reader into Cody’s private life in a very personal way, and in doing so opens the lens for a broader view of world events.

 

 

 

Weekend (and next week) TBR Edition 2

Yay! Two weeks straight of this new idea I had – I’m on a roll!

All descriptions and links are from Goodreads ~ follow me there and on Instagram for my reviews!

Okay, let’s start off with my CURRENTLY reading title – this is an 800 page monster of a book, so I’ve been reading it ALL. WEEK. LONG and will be reading it through the weekend for sure. That is pretty much unheard of for me! I’m really, really enjoying it, though, so if you are into lengthy detailed political and historical sagas, look for this one!

The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch
(Little Brown ~ November 7, 2017

MarinaMFrom the mega-bestselling author of White Oleander and Paint It Black, a sweeping historical saga of the Russian Revolution, as seen through the eyes of one young woman.

St. Petersburg, New Year’s Eve, 1916. Marina Makarova is a young woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life, a life about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history. Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers’ rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn.

As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina’s own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times. This is the epic, mesmerizing story of one indomitable woman’s journey through some of the most dramatic events of the last century.

Now for the TBR!

Due to the fact that I spent so much time on Marina this week, my “weekend” TBR is now big enough to last the weekend and all of next week as well! Here is what I’m going to be focusing on……..

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State
by Nadia Murad
(Tim Duggan Books ~ November 7, 2017)

Thanks to Crown Publishing for this review copy! This looks absolutely fascinating, but possibly a tough read. I may be reading this one on and off combined with one of the lighter middle grade titles below.

thelastgirlIn this intimate memoir of survival, a former captive of ISIS tells her harrowing and ultimately inspiring story.

Nadia Murad was born and raised in Kocho, a small village of farmers and shepherds in Iraq. A member of the Yazidi community, she and her eleven brothers and sisters lived a quiet life. Nadia was in high school and had dreams of becoming a history teacher and opening her own beauty salon.

On August 15th, 2014, when Nadia was just twenty-one years old, this life ended. ISIS militants massacred the people of her village, executing men old enough to fight and women too old to become sex slaves. Six of Nadia’s brothers were killed, and her mother soon after, their bodies swept into mass graves. Nadia and her two sisters were taken to Mosul, where they joined thousands of Yazidi girls in the ISIS slave trade.

Nadia would be sold three times, raped, beaten, and forced to convert to Islam in order to marry one of her captors. Finally, she managed a narrow escape through the streets of Mosul, finding shelter in the home of a Sunni Muslim family whose eldest son risked his life to smuggle her to the safety of a refugee camp. There, surrounded by bereaved and broken Yazidi families, Nadia decided to devote her life to bringing ISIS to justice.

As a farm girl in rural Iraq, Nadia could not have imagined she would one day address the United Nations or be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She had never been to Baghdad, or even seen an airplane. As a slave, she was told by her captors that Yazidis would be erased from the face of the earth, and there were times when she believed them.

Today, Nadia’s story–as a witness to ISIS, a survivor of rape, a refugee, a Yazidi–has forced the world to pay attention to the ongoing genocide in Iraq. It is a call to action, a testament to the human will to survive, and a love letter to a lost country, a fragile community, and a family torn apart by war.

Millard Salter’s Last Day by Jacob M. Appel
(Gallery Books ~ November 7, 2017)

Thanks to Gallery for this review copy! I have read some great reviews of this one, so am excited to dig in.

millardsalterIn the spirit of the New York Times bestselling A Man Called Ove, this is the heartwarming story of a man who decides to end his life before he’s too old—but then begins to reconsider when he faces complications from the world around him.

In an effort to delay the frailty and isolation that comes with old age, psychiatrist Millard Salter decides to kill himself by the end of the day—but first he has to tie up some loose ends. These include a tête-à-tête with his youngest son, Lysander, who at forty-three has yet to hold down a paying job; an unscheduled rendezvous with his first wife, Carol, whom he hasn’t seen in twenty-seven years; and a brief visit to the grave of his second wife, Isabelle. Complicating this plan though is Delilah, the widow with whom he has fallen in love in the past few months. As Millard begins to wrap up his life, he confronts a lifetime of challenges during a single day—and discovers that his family has a big surprise for him as well.

The Bowery: The Strange History of New York’s Oldest Street
by Stephen Paul Devillo

(Skyhorse Publishing ~ November 7, 2017)

I requested a review copy of this from Skyhorse because I am obsessed with NYC history ~  a huge thanks to them for indulging my obsession!

theboweryIt was the street your mother warned you about–even if you lived in San Francisco. Long associated with skid row, saloons, freak shows, violence, and vice, the Bowery often showed the worst New York City had to offer. Yet there were times when it showed its best as well. The Bowery is New York’s oldest street and Manhattan’s broadest boulevard. Like the city itself, it has continually reinvented itself over the centuries. Named for the Dutch farms, or bouweries, of the area, the path’s lurid character was established early when it became the site of New Amsterdam’s first murder. A natural spring near the Five Points neighborhood led to breweries and taverns that became home to the gangs of New York–the “Bowery B’hoys,” “Plug Uglies,” and “Dead Rabbits.” In the Gaslight Era, teenaged streetwalkers swallowed poison in McGurk’s Suicide Hall. A brighter side to the street was reflected in places of amusement and culture over the years. A young P.T. Barnum got his start there, and Harry Houdini learned showmanship playing the music halls and dime museums. Poets, singers, hobos, gangsters, soldiers, travelers, preachers, storytellers, con-men, and reformers all gathered there. Its colorful cast of characters include Peter Stuyvesant, Steve Brodie, Carrie Nation, Stephen Foster, Stephen Crane, Carrie Joy Lovett, and even Abraham Lincoln. The Bowery: The Strange History of New York’s Oldest Street traces the full story of this once notorious thoroughfare from its pre-colonial origins to the present day.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
(Knopf ~ September 9, 2014)

I may be the last person on earth to have NOT read this book, and despite EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. in the #bookstagram world telling me how amazing this is, it’s not one I would have picked up if it weren’t on my Librarian Battle of the Books list. Fingers crossed all of those bookish friends are right!

stationelevenAn audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains – this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (YOUNG ADULT)
(Harper Teen ~ October 3, 2017) 

National Book Award finalist and my Instagram librarian BFF Laura tells me it is AMAZING – those two things have pushed this to the top of my YA TBR pile!

farfromthetreeA contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

That’s the Spirit by Stacia Deutsch (MIDDLE GRADE)
(Stone Arch Books ~ August 1, 2017)

This is another title that was included in the Intermediate WAM Book Bundle I received for free as one of the company’s Instagram reps – it looks great, and it may end up being a series I want to buy for my library. 

that's the spirtThe brown house at the end of Shaker Street is a bit shady. Everyone who moves in gets scared off. Liv is convinced the house is haunted by the ghost of its late owner, General Pablo Carlos, Michael doesn’t buy it, and Leo want nothing to do with ghosts! One thing’s for certain, something fishy is going on. The Mysterious Makers set to making a ghost detector to determine just what’s behind the spirit on Shaker Street. Real-life makers can keep the fun going and create their own detector and levitating ghost with instructions at the end of the book, and a glossary and reader questions make this a great choice.

Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske (MIDDLE GRADE)
(Charlesbridge ~ August 22, 2017)

I requested this title for review from Charlesbridge because I had read such amazing reviews from my librarian colleagues across the interwebs. I’m really looking forward to reading and adding it to my library!

katgreeneEleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. When Mom isn’t scrubbing every inch of their Greenwich Village apartment, she’s boiling the silverware or checking Kat’s sheets for bedbugs. It’s enough to drive any middle schooler crazy! Add friendship troubles to the mix, a crummy role in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and Mom’s decision to try out for “Clean Sweep,” a competitive-cleaning TV game show, and what have you got? More trouble than Kat can handle. At least, without a little help from her friends.


Okay, that’s it! Have an awesome weekend!

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee


American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
by Nate Blakeslee
(Crown Publishing ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunningly addictive, this nonfiction account of wolves, Yellowstone and humanity reads like a fictional account of dueling mob families in a turf war. A must-read for nature lovers and hunters alike.

Thanks to Crown Publishing for providing me with a free advance copy of this book for review purposes.

Nate Blakeslee has done what very few writers can. He has taken a group of wild animals and created an epic drama surrounding their lives ~ a drama that reads entirely like fiction or the best type of biography. I honestly didn’t think it was possible for an almost-300-page tome about wolves to be a page turner, but it truly, truly is. Blakeslee includes just the right balance between the people and politics surrounding the wolves with the actions of the actual wolves to ensure that readers understand just how perilous this animal’s survival chances are. And really, the survival chances of any wild animals in the United States. The stories in this book about Yellowstone and the federal and state agencies regulating the park and wildlife honestly make me despair about the way our nation is run on an entirely new level. Bureaucracy trumps nature at every single turn, but the hearts of those dedicated to protecting wolves give me hope.

Required reading for nature lovers, hunters, and anyone who loves quality nonfiction. This is one of the best out there.

Now, a little bit about my background coming into this book so you can understand my unbridled love for it. First of all, I read National Geographic cover to cover every single month. Nature writing is my THING. Next, we live in rural Wisconsin and the hunting/preservation topic is always close by. In addition, my family has a major wolf obsession due to my son’s extreme interest in them ~ he currently has 8 stuffed wolves that he has with him at all times, a wolf mask, posters, calendars, blankets, and countless books on this topic. The arrival of this book in my household as an advance copy was a cause for great celebration, and I can not wait for my husband and son to get to share it next. My husband also has family in Wyoming and is an avid hunter ~ we have always had spirited conversations about wildlife management, and this book just adds to our discussion fodder.

One of my favorite reads of 2017.

For an update on this topic, see Blakeslee’s October 6, 2017 WSJ article “The Plight of the West’s Wolves”

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The Floating World by C Morgan Babst


The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst
(Algonquin Books ~ October 17, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As dark and disturbing as Katrina herself, THE FLOATING WORLD takes readers into the most damaged neighborhoods of New Orleans, both during and after the epic storm, in this story of family, race and a city in crisis.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for the review copy of this title.

Book Description

A dazzling debut about family, home, and grief, The Floating World takes readers into the heart of Hurricane Katrina with the story of the Boisdorés, whose roots stretch back nearly to the foundation of New Orleans. Though the storm is fast approaching the Louisiana coast, Cora, the family’s fragile elder daughter, refuses to leave the city, forcing her parents, Joe Boisdoré, an artist descended from a freed slave who became one of the city’s preeminent furniture makers, and his white “Uptown” wife, Dr. Tess Eshleman, to evacuate without her, setting off a chain of events that leaves their marriage in shambles and Cora catatonic–the victim or perpetrator of some violence mysterious even to herself.

This mystery is at the center of C. Morgan Babst’s haunting, lyrical novel. Cora’s sister, Del, returns to New Orleans from the life she has tried to build in New York City to find her hometown in ruins and her family deeply alienated from one another. As Del attempts to figure out what happened to her sister, she must also reckon with the racial history of the city, and the trauma of destruction that was not, in fact, some random act of God, but an avoidable tragedy visited upon New Orleans’s most helpless and forgotten citizens.

The Floating World is the Katrina story that needed to be told–one with a piercing, unforgettable loveliness and a nuanced understanding of this particular place and its tangled past, written by a New Orleans native who herself says that after Katrina, “if you were blind, suddenly you saw.”

Review

This book is not an easy read. It’s not a page turner or a nail biter. It’s not a story of a strong New Orleans rising after a devastating storm and it’s not a story of a family coming together in a time of need. It’s a fiercely honest account of a family going through tortured times, both emotional and environmental. It’s a story of hearts breaking and a city sinking and the absolute worst that people can do. As you read, you are trapped in the brains of humans who are suffering, both in typical ways and in ways brought about by mental illness and dementia.

But. But. You also experience the depths of the human condition and the brutal racial divide in the city. You learn about the horrors of a storm most of us haven’t experienced firsthand, and to understand is to empathize.

Is this happy? No. Is it important? Yes.

If you like dark, ruminative stories about complex social issues, this one’s for you. If you’re looking for a light, fast-paced adventure story about surviving a hurricane, this will definitely surprise you with its slow and meandering nature and psychological focus.

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The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman


The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman
(Lake Union – October 10, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful ode to Detroit and comfort food, this novel is an absolute feel-good delight.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy of this title.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.

Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.

As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?

Review

Lampman has taken her love for Detroit, combined it with her adoration of food, and created not only a wonderful work of fiction, but also a wonderful primer on Detroit’s history and the resurrection of a fallen city. Michigan as a whole and Detroit specifically take on a life of their own in this novel, creating a sense of place that I really don’t experience in most novels. The characters grab your heart and while I didn’t always agree with their decisions, I could relate to Sam and Addie very closely. The diner itself is swoon-worthy, and I love how the influence of food bloggers, Yelp and newspaper reviews are included.

Throughout the story, Lampman is careful to include the complexities of race relations in the area, as well as the complexity of race relations in general, and while several times this gets somewhat awkward, her genuine attempt to highlight her respect for the diversity of the diner’s neighborhood shine through. I would much prefer an awkward implementation over an inappropriate one or completely glossed over view of race in a quickly-gentrifying neighborhood.

Overall, this is a delightful read that I would highly recommend to fans of contemporary women’s and foodie fiction, as well as anyone with a soft spot for Detroit in their hearts. I’m a huge fan of all of these things, making me the PERFECT audience for this story! I’m so happy I had the opportunity to read it pre-release.

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Outskirts of Hope by Jo Ivester

The Outskirts of Hope: A Memoir by Jo Ivester
(She Writes Press ~ April 7, 2015)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A heartbreaking memoir that is scarily close to today’s reality in much of our country today.

Thanks to Book Sparks for the review copy of this book.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

In 1967, when Jo Ivester was ten years old, her father transplanted his young family from a suburb of Boston to a small town in the heart of the Mississippi cotton fields, where he became the medical director of a clinic that served the poor population for miles around. But ultimately it was not Ivester s father but her mother a stay-at-home mother of three who became a high school English teacher when the family moved to the South who made the most enduring mark on the town. In The Outskirts of Hope, Ivester uses journals left by her mother, as well as writings of her own, to paint a vivid, moving, and inspiring portrait of her family s experiences living and working in an all-black town during the heights of the civil rights movement.”

Review

First of all, let me be clear that I read stories of racism written by whites VERY carefully to determine whether it is being written from a “white savior” viewpoint. And YES, this is written from that viewpoint, however, it’s a memoir. It’s based on real events, and real feelings and real people. And Ivester did her research and fact-checked her mother’s journals with the citizens of Mound Bayou, so how can anyone say she can’t tell this story? Aura Kruger, by all accounts, appears to be a remarkable woman and reading her story was absolutely fascinating.

Reading about Mound Bayou itself, as well as the Jim Crow environment and the KKK, was difficult, especially given the parallels to today’s society, and I think Ivester did an admirable job of being careful to not give this story a fluffy and feel-good air. It’s a raw story, especially given Jo’s experiences, but she doesn’t sugarcoat that. I also didn’t get the impression that the Kruger family “saved” anyone – Ivester makes sure to let readers know just how much like outsiders they felt during their time in Mound Bayou, and how complex racial tensions were. The author’s own traumatic experiences during her time in Mississippi are dealt with in an understated but rightfully shocking way, giving readers an understanding of her reluctance to face this story until much later in life. Of course, reading a narrative by a black citizen of Mound Bayou about that same time period would be an amazing parallel read, and I will definitely be looking into more memoirs such as this but written from the opposite perspective.

I highly recommend this story to readers of nonfiction who are trying to make sense of racial issues in the US today ~ OUTSKIRTS OF HOPE provides some background in the format of a story that most of us haven’t been aware of.

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault of a child

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Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand
Book #4 in the Winter series

(Little Brown ~ October 3, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I am so sad to see this series end, WINTER SOLSTICE wrapped up the story of the Quinn Family and the Winter Street Inn perfectly.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book – all opinions are my own.

The Winter series has been giving me warm and fuzzies since the publication of WINTER STREET in 2014, and I have eagerly awaited each subsequent title – next up was WINTER STROLL, then WINTER STORMS, and now finally WINTER SOLSTICE. Please please PLEASE do not start the series with this book! To get the full cozy satisfaction, you must go back to the beginning for all the backstory on the Quinn family and their world on Nantucket. I guarantee that you will be happy you did! Hilderbrand’s Nantucket stories are a sure thing when it comes to sense of place – the island itself takes the top billing in the list of characters and makes readers ache to live there.

Recommended for fans of Hilderbrand’s other work, and contemporary women’s fiction. This is a lighter, feel-good series with enough complexity to satisfy even readers of typically heavier works.

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Mikey and Me by Teresa Sullivan

Mikey and Me: Life with My Exceptional Sister by Teresa Sullivan
(She Writes Press ~ August 29, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heartbreaking memoir of growing up with an exceptional sibling in the 1950s , 60’s and 70s – a time when institutionalization was the norm and there was no support for or knowledge about the disabilities that Mikey lived with.

Thanks to Book Sparks and She Writes Press for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own.

Book Description

A riveting memoir about growing up as a typical sibling in a family of four, Mikey & Me is Teresa Sullivan’s tribute to her beloved older sister Mikey, who was blind and developmentally disabled. 

When Mikey is young, the Sullivans are a closely-knit unit, devoted to caring for her. But as Mikey grows older, and increasingly violent, it becomes impossible to keep her at home. At twelve, institutionalization is the only option. Without the shared purpose of caring for Mikey, the family begins to unravel. Seeking comfort and connection, Teresa navigates the border between the mainstream and the 1960s and 70s countercultures. Still, the Sullivans are united by their love and concern for Mikey, visiting often and sometimes bringing her home. Sometimes sweet and touching interludes, these visits also reveal evidence of the abuse that Mikey experiences. 

Writing with clarity, eloquence, and poignancy, Sullivan shines a light on the complicated issues involved in caring for a special needs child. Even young siblings must become honorary adults and caregivers, grappling with the same conflicting emotions their parents experience. 

As she interweaves her exceptional sister’s journey with her own, Sullivan affirms the grace and brutality of Mikey’s life, and its indelible effect on her family.

Review

Teresa Sullivan has shared an incredibly moving and personal story with the world, and it is a story that both enlightens and shocks. Her accounts of Mikey’s challenges and the treatment her and her family were given by the medical community are simply heartbreaking, but also imperative for today’s parents, teachers and medical professionals to witness as the mysteries of autism are being unlocked. We need to know how far we have come in this journey to maintain hope, but we also need to know that the challenges are still there.

As a former special education teacher, and current school librarian, I have seen over and over again the agonies faced by parents and siblings of children with exceptional needs – especially when there are violent tendencies. Sullivan provides a great service with this book by letting families know that they are not alone in their journey, and also provides a list of resources at the end of the book for families.

I highly recommend this book for fans of memoir and anyone involved in the care of our more vulnerable citizens, including the elderly. This story will stay with me for a very long time.

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