Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Pub. Date: July 28, 2015
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, MIRA!)
Summary: She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.
Genre: Contemporary, Adult, Psychological Thriller
Recommended for: Readers who like edge-of-your-seat rides and don’t mind a hearty dash of the psychological

Mary Kubica’s debut, The Good Girl has come highly recommended to me by two good friends who share a VERY similar taste in books. While I haven’t yet gotten around to her first novel, the moment I heard she was working on a new one I knew I needed to read it.

Pretty Baby centers on a small family in Chicago: Heidi, overly caring and selfless; Chris, an investment banker who spends more time in hotels than at home; and Zoe, on the brink of 13 and angry at the world. Heidi is a nurturer at heart – Chris is no longer surprised by the appearance of a new stray kitten – but one day she goes a step too far. After noticing a young girl with a baby at the train station, Heidi makes it a point to buy the girl dinner. Give her money for formula. Lend her Heidi’s very own coat (literally off her back). But when Heidi invites to the girl stay at her house, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into.

I love – love! – books with multiple POVs. With each chapter change, we see Pretty Baby through Chris’s eyes. Through Heidi’s. Through Willow’s. Digging down deep into their psyches really made the novel for me and uncovering the secrets of Willow’s past was a whirlwind (and oftentimes heartbreaking) journey. While there was a decent amount of backstory given (particularly with Heidi’s cancer that left her unable to have the big family she always wanted) I felt Willow was the character most developed and fleshed out. From becoming an orphan at 8 to living a horrible existence with a foster family (Joseph, her foster father, raped and abused her on a daily basis) and, finally, her escape, Willow felt the most ‘real’ to me. She watched as her little sister was quickly adopted and given a new name and loving home. She spent years locked away in a bedroom, forbidden from stepping foot outdoors or communicating with her foster brothers. I’m honestly impressed she was able to survive at all once she found a way out.

So while there was a nice dose of substance, there were also story lines that felt hurried and unnecessary. Heidi’s best friend. Chris’s femme fatale coworker and their almost-but-not-quite affair. Next door neighbor Graham. Many, many threads were introduced in Pretty Baby but were dropped to the wayside or hastily wrapped up in order to devote more time to solving the mystery behind Willow and baby Ruby.

The one thing I didn’t like about Pretty Baby was the virtual 180° spin on Heidi’s character at the very end – though I suppose this is where the psychological part comes in. I had a big long paragraph all typed up here before realizing just how spoilery it was. Sorry guys! I don’t want to ruin anything for you there.

While the ending didn’t quite work for me (it felt so sudden and out of the blue) and there were threads that either didn’t go anywhere or were quickly written off, I enjoyed Pretty Baby and tore through it VERY quickly. “Just one more chapter” turned into 100 pages, 200 pages, and before I knew it the book was finished. So much for savoring this one! Pretty Baby is an intense and engaging thriller, perfectly suited for poolside lounging or a rainy, isolated cabin.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Pub. Date: July 28, 2015
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Pamela Dorman Books!)
Summary: When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
Recommended for: Food lovers! Readers curious about an interesting and innovative format where recipes tell the story

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a book that has been on my radar for what seems like ages. The minute I first became aware of it I knew it was something I needed to read and have been itching to get my hands on a copy. Not only does the novel revolve around food, but this debut has been getting a ton of pre-publication buzz from some pretty noteworthy people/places.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest tells the story of Eva Thorvald, from birth through adolescence and into adulthood, all the while never showing the tale through her eyes. Instead, each chapter focuses on a different character at a different point in Eva’s life and the dish that links the pair, starting with ‘Lutefisk,’ very much her father’s story, going back through generations and essentially setting the scene for what’s to come. Namely, food and a passion for it.

When tragedy strikes baby Eva, her life carries on in Minnesota. As a teen she grows and cultivates chocolate habanero peppers in her bedroom, increasing her tolerance for spice (and pain) which ultimately leads to a pretty amusing (and badass) method of revenge for some schoolyard bullies…and also turns out to be an excellent way to make a quick buck. With each passing year, Eva’s talent in the kitchen grows until she’s prominently featured on all the up-and-coming blogs, eventually rising to elite status with her super exclusive, $1,000-a-course dinners in extreme locations. Anyone who is anyone is on the wait list…including the woman who abandoned Eva as a baby all those years ago.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a light-hearted, quick read that was character-driven (my fav) and revolved around food (my other fav.) Total Leah win here! Because each chapter is told from a different perspective (an ex-boyfriend, a jealous rival, a cousin) I had assumed there would be a different take on Eva, that someone who knew her better would have a deeper, more authentic look into her character while someone who barely spoke with her would have only the barest of whispers to say. Instead, Eva is presented the same in everyone’s eyes: tall, blonde, and wholly likable (even the rival comes around eventually.) That said, when the biggest complaint a reader has is that the main character was too nice, I suppose you’ve done something right, so bravo, Mr. Stradal!

The recipes really further the story, from what was supposed to be Eva’s first food (pureed pork shoulder and carrot cake) to French onion soup (cooking is an excellent way to impress a girl, boys!) to a prize-winning County Fair dessert (which catches Eva’s eye and soon becomes one of the $1000 dishes.) While none of them are particularly new or eye-opening, they’re recipes everyone is familiar with and their addition made the story that much more enjoyable for me. The book club kit includes several others, each quintessentially Midwestern (Wisconsin Sushi, anyone?) and also features a Q&A with Stradal for more foodie talk!

While you don’t necessarily have to be a foodie to appreciate Kitchens of the Great Midwest it certainly heightens the enjoyment, but its easy breezy pace and short story-esque format are sure to please readers across the board. With a debut like this I’m excited to see where Stradal goes next!

weekly wrap-up 7/26

Happy Sunday! A bit of advice: don’t buy a house, kids. Matt and I recently purchased our first home (!! – though technically, we don’t close until Tuesday, so I guess we haven’t purchased it yet) and these past few months have been one giant headache. So much running around, calling this bank, scheduling that inspection, so. many. signatures. Seriously, bring your A game and probably do some workouts before because you’re going to be signing enough papers to last a lifetime. BUT we’re finally in the homestretch, just two more days!

So because of that, I’ve been pretty quiet in terms of blogging and twitter. Any ~drama~ going on? Any exciting book announcements I missed??

Back in March, the first ever #HistoricalFix chat was held and I did a recap of it here. In April, I made the announcement that Erin asked me to join the team and be an official co-host and on Tuesday we had our second chat! It was a blast and while I won’t be doing a recap like I did for the first, I compiled a list of the recommendations once again and the list is now up on GoodReads!


FROM THE LIBRARY
Alex + Ada volume 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Last week I mentioned that, although I requested volumes 1 and 2 at the same time, volume 2 arrived first..ha. Well volume 1 finally arrived and I quickly powered through both. While I wasn’t as starry-eyed as it seems other readers are, I definitely see the appeal and had a great time reading! With graphic novels, I like reading entire series in one go, so the wait for the next volume (single issues aren’t going to cut it for me) will be a killer!

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Oh, Middle Grade ♥! This one tells the story of a girl living in the Depression-era segregated South and the night the Ku Klux Klan makes a startling reappearance. I know this will be a tough one to read, especially because the narrator is an 11-year-old girl, but I’ve been eager for hard-hitting stories and think this is just what I need.

FOR REVIEW
The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
“Dortchen Wild fell in love with Wilhelm Grimm the first time she saw him.” Aaaand sold. No, I lied. I was sold way before that sentence. I was sold halfway through last year’s Bitter Greens when I realized that, yes, I will forever be reading whatever this woman writes. The Wild Girl is yet another novel that sounds written just for me: war-torn Germany, Napoleon, the Brothers Grimm.. Kate knows how to make my heart beat a little faster! Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Okay, confession time: I have no idea what this book is about, only that it’s been getting some serious buzz and people are going crazy for it. I’m NOT a fan of dystopian novels, but I’m willing to give this one a shot and I’m especially intrigued by the format: the story is told through military files, IMs (!!!), e-mails, medical reports, etc. Thank you, Knopf Books for Young Readers!!

In Case You Missed It
Mini-Review Roundup! A foodie novel perfect for fans of You’ve Got Mail! A revisit of a childhood favorite (that definitely holds up!) I DNF’d a Maggie!!

I was a little hesitant when Amanda Panitch’s Damage Done arrived unsolicited, but I ended up reading it and it was a total blast. SUPER twisty and turny with a shocker I didn’t expect at all!

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
Pub. Date: July 21, 2015
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Random House Books for Young Readers!!)
Summary: 22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she’s able to begin again. She’s even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy’s forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Thriller
Recommended for: Readers who enjoy being completely caught off guard and surprised, readers looking for something much darker than they’re used to

Wow. WOOOOOW. It’s not everyday I’m so thoroughly swept off my feet by a story, although maybe that’s not the right phrase, since it brings to mind a swoony, romantic tale. No, Damage Done ripped the rug out from under me is a more apt expression. I knew there would be a twist and so I began guessing and guessing some more. While I was on the right track with one turn, I certainly didn’t expect that. Or that and especially not THAT.

Nine months ago Lucy Black was Julia Vann. She had a twin brother, a best friend, and was dating a boy on the football team. Then came the twenty minutes that changed her life forever: Ryan, her brother, shot and killed 11 classmates (including a teacher) in the band room with Julia as the sole survivor. Ryan’s attempted suicide right after failed, putting him into a medically-induced coma from which he never woke. As for Julia, she was immediately labeled an outcast, and the never-ending stream of reporters camped outside the family home became too much for her mother.

With a new identity and a new house across the state, Lucy begins to feel safe, begins to feel normal again. She’s making friends, starts flirting with a boy, and slowly opens up to be the person she was before her life changed. One day, after seeing someone she thinks she recognizes from her past, she starts to worry but tries to brush it off as a coincidence or a figment of her imagination. As these sightings happen more and more frequently, however, she soon comes to realize something is definitely wrong and the new life she carved for herself isn’t as safe as she thought.

Ohhh my. So I’m extremely hesitant when books are pitched as X-meets-X or The New ____. Damage Done has been hailed as “Gillian Flynn for the YA set” and, for once, I agree. I’m also somewhat reluctant to read books that I’ve received unsolicited – there are so many others I have that I want to read and piles of books I’ve actually requested, why bother devoting time to a book I’ve never even heard of? Last month I randomly grabbed Trish Doller’s The Devil You Know from my library, devoured it in record time, and have been craving another YA Thriller ever since. I’m so, so pleased to say Damage Done went above and beyond all expectations. What I thought was going to be a quick read did indeed turn out to be such, but it also took me on one wild ride and when I wasn’t reading, my time was still spent with this book, counting down the hours, the minutes until I could finally pick it up again.

The past few books I’ve read I’ve likened to made-for-tv movies – and I don’t mean that in a bad way! A Limetime movie on a lazy weekend makes my heart sing and Damage Done could easily join its ranks. The fast pace, the twists and turns, it’s all there and Ms. Panitch did such an excellent job that while reading, I was able to ‘watch’ it perfectly. The scenes played out effortlessly in my head.

There were two issues I had with this one, but they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Dr. Spence, Ryan’s psychiatrist, has a huge chip on his shoulder. He wants to be a police psychiatrist, but the academy rejected him, so he’s stuck working with children like Ryan and trying to discover just why he dismembers puppies and burns down treehouses while little girls are still inside. After every few chapters, Damage Done pauses from the current story, to delve a bit into Dr. Spence’s notes…and they’re seriously written like a teen girl’s diary. He vents and rages and makes snide remarks about his profession and I just couldn’t take him seriously. The other issue was one of those I’ll Tell You Everything deals where a new officer (it’s her very first day on the job) explains – in detail – how to enter a supposedly high security cell. She even includes the location of the keys. I don’t care if it’s her first day or if she’s been there 30 years – you don’t explain 1) where dangerous criminals are being held and 2) provide thoroughly-detailed instructions on how to break them out. That’s just common sense.

And a note about that cover.. the cover model is so beautiful, but here, with her grey, lifeless skin, all I could think of was zombie.

When all if said and done, Damage Done surprised me. I truly hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s fun, dark, creepy, and twisty and the ultimate reveal is one I definitely hadn’t expected – but it makes SO much sense. All in all, this was a great Thriller that kept me both engaged and guessing until it’s final pages.

mini-review roundup: food! childhood favorite! Stiefvater!

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert | July 21, 2015

Pitched as You’ve Got Mail-meets-How to Eat a Cupcake, this super cute novel will leave you starving! Lou’s day goes from bad to worse when, in an attempt to surprise her fiance with a delicious coconut cake for his birthday, she walks into his apartment to find his half-naked secretary. She lets her emotions get the best of her and the dinner service at her restaurant (where she’s the owner/chef) is a total disaster…and it’s the night that a food critic just so happens to have made an appearance. A scathing review has her business crumbling and the only bright spot is a charming British man. Unbeknownst to the pair, however, is that Al is the over-the-top rude writer while Lou owns the restaurant he single-handedly brought down.

There aren’t any plot twists or shocks here, but that’s okay. Sometimes you need a fluffy, light-hearted romance and that’s exactly what I got with The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. You know what’s going to happen chapters before it does and I’m positive you can already guess at the ending, but that doesn’t detract from the journey to get there. Certain passages had my mouth watering and the secondary characters were every bit as fleshed out as Lou and Al. Fun, fun, fun and I could totally see this as a made-for-tv movie!

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
May, 1994

It’s always a gamble when you revisit childhood favorites. Do they hold up? Is it possible to stand the test of time or is it a completely different (read, lesser) experience when viewed through adult eyes? There have been rumors floating around since last fall that Lena Dunham wants to adapt this one for the big screen and while I’ll keep my thoughts on Lena mum for now, I realized it had been years since I read this one and went on a mad hunt for a copy. My library came through and I blazed through this one in an afternoon.

1290s England. Catherine, the 12-year-old daughter of a knight, has just been given the news she’ll soon be married off and she vows to scare off any and all potential suitors. Sassy and charming and full of wit, I had completely forgotten how hilarious Catherine and this novel were! Or maybe I didn’t get some of the humor at the time..? Either way, I’m thrilled I decided to pick this one up again after so many years and I know it’s one I’ll be revisiting time and time again.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
October, 2011

I hate to do this to a Maggie novel, especially since I was SO overjoyed at being able to dive back into her incredible writing, but this was a DNF for me.

Every November the water horses rise from the sea, terrible and red-eyed and fully capable of killing humans. Those brave – or foolish – enough attempt to capture them, hoping to tame the beasts for the Scorpio Races, when the water horses take to the land. Having lost his father to a water horse, Sean (last year’s champion) knows just how deadly they can be. Puck, already orphaned, is about to lose her brother to the call of the mainland and she never intended on entering the race, she only saw it as a means to save their house and buy some food. And she certainly hadn’t planned on being the first girl to enter.

Okay, sure, the writing was great, but nothing happened. I love dual narratives, but I love them more when they further the story. Here, the two characters spent their time preparing for the race…and nothing else. It reached the point where I was looking for anything to distract me: laundry, dishes, paying bills. Finally, after six days and no progress, I decided to call it quits at 40%. I’m chalking this one up to me not being a horse person and I know I’m in the minority here. So, so sorry, Maggie :(

weekly wrap-up 7/19: go set a…hold limit?

Happy Sunday! How was your week? Mine was fairly low key which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

A friend was recently telling me about Shakespeare’s original pronunciation and showed me a clip on youtube. I know I’m probably late to the game, but if you haven’t seen this or heard about OP before I highly recommend checking it out! I was never a bit Shakespeare fan in school and haven’t given him a second thought since graduating, but I would definitely consider watching a play in the original language: there are puns and wordplay that wasn’t evident in modern English. It wasn’t until the actor began saying their lines with Shakespeare’s pronunciation that it became clear and I think that’s so neat.

This weekend Pittsburgh became Picklesburgh – we had our very first (of many!?!) pickle festivals! Two days of pickles, pickles, and more pickles. ♥ Heaven in a jar.

Also, this week saw the 97th anniversary of the assassination of the Romanov family. In a Get Your Fix! post from last year, I highlighted Romanov reads, both fiction and non-fic.



FROM THE LIBRARY
Alex + Ada vol. 2 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
SOOOO remember when I mentioned on twitter about requesting a series and the sequel arrived first? Yeah. Still waiting for the first volume to show up so I can finally see what the fuss is all about! People are going crazy for this series and I want to flail too, guys!!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Aww yeah. I own Throne of Glass and have heard nothing but the best of things about that series from a good friend, but of course I still haven’t read it. I was putzing around the other day after finishing a book and couldn’t decide what to read next when I noticed there was a copy of this one at my library. Done and done! Really looking forward to diving into this one.

Nookes & Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Y’all know I love me some Middle Grade, especially when there are pet mice, reclusive Countesses, and a possibly-haunted mansion! Also, the cover is probably the cutest thing ever.

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
I have been dying for a reread of this one for ages, particularly with the rumor that there’s a movie in the works!! I haven’t been able to find a copy in stores, so the minute I saw it was available at the library I snatched it up and devoured it in an afternoon. This originally came out in ’94 and it was only a few years later that I first read it, so let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve spent time with Birdy. My goodness does it hold up! And I hadn’t realized just how funny it was! Love.

I also put a ton of ebooks on hold as well as audio. Thankfully they seem to be fairly spread out (a few I’m next in line for, then others there are still multiple people ahead of me) so I’m keeping my fingers crossed I won’t be too overwhelmed when they finally start pouring in!

FOR REVIEW
The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur
Last month I received an ARC of this one and the publicist was awesome enough to send a finished copy my way! When a child goes missing, a sixteen-year-old secret is uncovered. It’s being compared to books from Lisa Scottoline and Heather Gudenkauf. Fun, fun, fun. Thank you, St. Martin’s!!

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin
A novel written in the style of a celebrity memoir. Oh, yes. The author was the ghostwriter of/co-author for numerous memoirs so I have high, high hopes for this one. Trashy in the best way possible! Thank you, Viking!!

Street Poison by Justin Gifford
This is the “definitive biography of one of America’s bestselling, notorious, and influential writers of the twentieth century,” Iceberg Slim. That said, I have no idea who this man is and couldn’t tell you a single thing he’s written. The author, a literature professor, combed through a really interesting array of material including FBI files and prison records, which sounds incredibly entertaining, but I don’t see this one jumping to the top of my To Read list anytime soon. Thank you, Doubleday!!

Mrs. Sinlair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters
WWII-era fiction makes my heart skip a beat. Family secrets make me swoon. Dual-era narratives leave me breathless. Inside a suitcase, a woman finds a letter from the grandfather she never knew…and it’s dated after he was said to have died in the war. SO looking forward to this one! Thank you, G.P. Putnam’s Sons!!

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Although I was SO not thrilled with Bowman’s debut Taken, absolutely hated it to the point where I haven’t and will not read the read of that series, but I’m VERY intrigued by this new book. Anything set during the Wild West calls my name. I’m holding out hope that this will be excellent. Thank you, HMH Books for Young Readers!!

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
A steampunk retelling of Cinderella? SAY NO MORE! Thank you, HMH Books for Young Readers!!

Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray
A THIRD NOVEL!!! I fell hard for the second book in the Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series (though still need to read the first!) and cannot wait to jump into this one! SO GOOD, you guys. What I love is that this is a series that focuses on a different set of characters each book while still keeping the other characters present. I imagine I’ll be plowing through this one soon. Thank you, Zondervan!!

In Case You Missed It
Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You deserves all the hype. For such a slim novel it packs a gut-punch that left me reeling. Make sure you set aside a good chunk of time to read this one – you won’t want to stop!

Serafina and the Black Cloak is a deliciously creepy Middle Grade set at the Biltmore Estate. Do I really need to go on?? Robert Beatty won’t have any problem selling me his next novel!

Nuala O’Connor’s Miss Emily turned into a ramble of my thoughts on fictional takes on historical figures. Personally, I’m all for it, even when I’m not familiar with the subject. This fictionalized account of Emily Dickinson’s life was excellent! It’s another tiny novel that I devoured in record time and is one I’d highly recommend, whether you’re a fan of the poet or just a lover of historical fiction.

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
Pub. Date: July 14, 2015
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Penguin!!)
Summary: Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has just been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their difference in age and the upstairs-downstairs divide, Ada strikes up a deep friendship with Miss Emily, the gifted elder daughter living a spinster’s life at home. But Emily’s passion for words begins to dominate her life. She will wear only white and avoids the world outside the Dickinson homestead. When Ada’s safety and reputation are threatened, however, Emily must face down her own demons in order to help her friend, with shocking consequences.
Genre: Historical fiction, based on a real person
Recommended for: Fans of Emily Dickinson, readers looking for a quick, engaging read

Every time I review a book based on a real historical figure, be it a giant, a suffragette, or a First Lady, I like to mention that I’ve come to dub this sub-genre Biographical Fiction. I have absolutely no idea whether or not this is an actual term, but it works so it’s stuck. To be honest, it’s probably my all-time favorite genre, this genre-within-a-genre (okay, Xzibit.)

Emily Dickinson, spinster daughter of a wealthy family, prefers spending her days alone with her thoughts and her writing. Unfortunately, with the departure of a maid, Emily has had to do her fair share of the work, cooking meals for the family, always dreaming of the day her father will hire a new girl to come in and take over. She eventually gets her wish in Ada, a teenager who recently (as in she arrived the day before she’s hired) left her family and home in Ireland in search of a new life. Despite the age difference, the pair hit it off and when Ada needs her the most, Emily realizes she’s stronger than she thinks.

Confession time: apart from Poe, I don’t particularly care for poetry, so Emily Dickinson is all but unknown to me. I don’t even know when she lived and couldn’t quite figure it out from the context clues given (late 1800s? Early 1900s??) Because of my blind ignorance of this woman and her works, I went into Miss Emily as I would any other novel and she became just another character. I wasn’t finding myself nitpicking over the little details – was this true?? Did this really happen? I could go off on a tangent here, but I’ll try to be brief. I truly feel that, unless you are confident in your ability to read without a bias and understand a work is historical FICTION, not historical FACT, it’s easier, possibly better, not to have prior knowledge of a subject. Take First Impressions, for example. I can already hear the gasps, but I have never read a single Jane Austen novel. So for me, reading a book where it was declared she not only didn’t write some of her famous works, but that she also stole ideas and characters was no big thing for me. Janeites, however, were in an uproar.

Because I took Miss Emily at face value, I was able to sit back and enjoy the ride. I have no idea if she was really in love with her best friend/sister-in-law. I have no idea if she was as terrified of stepping outdoors as the book suggests.

Each chapter bounces between Emily and Ada and the chapter titles were a joy: Miss Emily Hides in the Garden, Miss Emily and Miss Ada Celebrate Birthdays, Miss Ada is Upset by a Visitor to the Homestead. These fun little snippets told me exactly what I was in for each chapter and I thought they were an excellent touch on a great story.

Emily and Ada are quick to strike up a friendship and it wasn’t until I was well into the book that I realized just how many years separated the two! I believe Emily at this time would have been going on 40, yet her sheltered innocence makes her come across as much, much younger. That said, Emily is fierce in her loyalty and when Ada needs her, Emily is right there by her side, despite the looks and snide remarks from her family and friends about getting too close to someone so ‘beneath’ her.

While I could have done without the use of sexual assault as a means to further the plot, I devoured Miss Emily in a single sitting (though I’m sure it being only 230 pages helped!) Between the richly detailed setting, wonderful female friendships, and excellently crafted characters, Nuala O’Connor has certainly caught my attention and I’m positive both fans of Miss Dickinson as well as newcomers to the poet’s work will feel right at home within its pages.