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weekly wrap-up 8/20

• I’m not sure why, but the trees in the business park where I work have decided to start changing color and leaves are scattered all over the ground and it’s put me in a fall mood. I should be ashamed at how basic I’ve become – no lie, my outfit everyday this week has been a big cardigan, booties, and either a dress or jeggings. #sorrynotsorry

Speaking of jeggings, I recently ordered a few pairs from a tiny online boutique when they were having a sale and I was SO impressed by how fast they arrived! I have a feeling I’ll be living in them (AND ordering other colors) ♥

• At work I binge on audiobooks and my current is Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen. It’s a nonfic (you know me!) about an 1830s expedition that led to the discovery of the Maya civilization. Totally me, but the narrator is driving me insane! I swear he’s done another book I’ve listened to, but I can’t figure out what book it was.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Danya Kukafka’s debut Girl in Snow was pretty impressive! The death of a girl rocks a tiny Colorado town, but don’t go into this one expecting a crime novel. Instead this is more of a character exploration-type read as it follows three characters: a cop faced with a dead-end job and a marriage that’s falling apart; a girl who had loved the boy Lucinda loved; and a boy who was essentially Lucinda’s stalker.

Erika Raskin’s Best Intentions was extremely thought-provoking and I definitely wasn’t expecting that! A social worker at a hospital is a witness to a terrible tragedy – and becomes the prime suspect. The novel is a back-and-forth narrative bouncing between the events surrounding the crime and the present as the trial arrives. I read this one in a single sitting.

Things got a little embarrassing as I shared six fantasy novels that have been on my shelf for way too long. Do I lose all bookworm cred by confessing I STILL haven’t read The Golden Compass??

FOR REVIEW
Bloodstains with Bronte by Katherine Bolger Hyde
It’s no secret I love cozy mysteries – especially ones involving books! – and I actually forgot all about this series!! Last year I received the first book, Arsenic with Austen and I’m thinking a double review is in order! Thank you, Minotaur Books!

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6 fantasy novels that have been on my shelf for WAY too long!

I know I’m not the only one who has some books that have been collecting dust for an embarrassingly long time! Today I wanted to share six fantasy & sci-fi novels that found their way to my shelves years ago that I still haven’t read – eek!

(Also, apparently all fantasy novels have blue covers.)

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Confession time: when I bought this book it was the only one in the series. …now there are seven books planned (though the fourth book is due out next year so I guess this isn’t too bad, right???) Part Robin Hood, part Ocean’s Eleven, guys. Locke Lamora is about an orphan who discovers a talent for thievery and is brought into a family of sorts, con men and tricksters known as the Gentlemen Bastards. There’s a war for the criminal underworld and Locke slowly comes to realize he’s being used as a pawn. So, so many friends and bloggers I adore absolutely love this series and I have no idea why I haven’t taken the plunge yet!

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Back in December, I did a two part post highlight series I wanted to read over the winter. Part one featured Adult titles and part two was devoted to YA series. The Chaos Walking trilogy was featured on that list…and I still haven’t managed to make time for it. The sad thing is I own all three books: the first I won in a giveaway, the other two I found on clearance for $1 each!) so there’s really no excuse here – especially when I’ve heard all the soul-crushing, gut-punching, over-the-moon praise these books have received.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
A cyborg Cinderella, need I say more?!

Sidekicked by John David Anderson
I won a copy of Sidekicked in a giveaway a few years ago and it has my name written all over it! A Middle Grade novel about a secret organization that trains superhero sidekicks. Andrew is one of those sidekicks, juggling his powers with trying to fit in in Middle School. But when a supervillain – long thought dead – returns, superheroes begin dropping, leaving the sidekicks to take a stand…and Drew’s secret identity threatens to be revealed. Book two, Minion takes the villains’ perspective!!

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Okay, okay, I KNOW. This is by far the most embarrassing one on this list (and another series I featured in the post of YA series I wanted to read last winter). Somehow I skipped right over this series when I was younger, which is definitely a shame since I have a feeling I would have been ALL over these books! On one of our very first dates, Matt – who is NOT a reader – actually bought all three books for me because he loved them so much…years later they remain unread. I’ve picked up the first one a handful of times throughout the years, but never made it far before an ARC gets in the way. Pullman has a new novel coming out soon so I’d like to finally get through these books!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I’m a big fan of huge, sweeping epics. I love sinking into a novel and completely immersing myself in its world. I was a bookseller when Game of Thrones premiered and suddenly nonreaders and people unfamiliar with the series were flocking to our store hoping to grab copies – and find similar titles. One series that developed a following was The Kingkiller Chronicle and though I had handsold it to countless customers, I have yet to read it for myself. A young man grows to become the world’s most notorious wizard. Yep, totally a Leah read!

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Best Intentions by Erika Raskin

Best Intentions by Erika Raskin
Pub. Date: August 15, 2017
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Marti Trailor—social worker on hold, mother of three, wife of a successful obstetrician, daughter of a Congressman—is ready to go back to work. She’s thrilled when the perfect opportunity falls in her lap. The catch? The job is at her husband’s hospital and he seems not to share her enthusiasm. Undeterred, she takes the position counseling vulnerable young women as they prepare to give birth.

Marti quickly begins to feel like she is making a difference in the lives of her clients. Soon, though, she finds herself caught up in the dark side of the medical center—with its long hours, overworked doctors and entrenched practices. When she witnesses something she can’t unsee, Marti, who has always done her best to keep a low-profile, finds herself thrust under a dangerous spotlight with all of Richmond, Virginia watching.
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery

Life as a doctor’s wife is lonely, especially now that Elliot has started taking on more work, heavier rotations, a new role. It’s not unheard of for Marti to go days without seeing her husband and it’s definitely beginning to cause a rift in their marriage. So when she’s presented the opportunity to not only jump back into work, but take a position at the hospital where Elliot works, Marti hardly hesitates.

If being a doctor’s wife is an underappreciated role, it’s nothing compared to that of a social worker and Marti sees it all: newly-pregnant teens, women simply down on their luck and unable to provide for a baby, women angry at the world for burdening them with an infant, a severely mentally handicapped woman who winds up pregnant. A birth should be cause for celebration – unfortunately, one night there’s a horrific tragedy, dubbed a terrible mistake, and suddenly Marti is thrust into the spotlight.

Best Intentions jumps back and forth, telling the story leading up to what Marti witnessed and her current life under arrest and awaiting trial. While reading I couldn’t help but think of Rena Olsen’s The Girl Before – not for similiar content (The Girl Before deals with human trafficking), but because both books feature that past/present narrative I love so much; in this case, the present storyline in both novels feature the women being questioned about terrible crimes.

The crime in Best Intentions is murder, namely the death of a newborn after a terrible and unforgivable mistake instantly left her brain dead and in a vegetative state upon birth. There’s a lot of moral and ethical talk in this novel: would the baby be better off dead? She will never breathe on her own, there’s no brain activity whatsoever. The mother is practically a child herself. The subject matter definitely isn’t easy, but it’s extremely thought-provoking and I enjoyed it immensely.

There’s a LOT of drama within the book’s pages – infidelities, nasty frenemy-type relationships with other doctors’ wives, discussion of the medical field itself (the extremely long hours doctors are expected to work, doctors far too tired to function yet tasked with delicate surgeries and operations, behind-the-scenes talk of things I would have never thought about like fudging numbers to make it look like young doctors are only – ha – working 90 hours when they’re really putting in 100 or more a week), but the book never felt weighed down. In fact, it was such an intense ride I tore right through it!

When Marti’s trial arrives, the chapters read like scenes straight out of Law & Order and I loved it. There was a HUGE mic drop moment where I nearly shrieked it was that good. I’m sure this will change now that the book has been released, but looking through the reviews for Best Intentions on GoodReads, there are NO 1- or 2-star reviews and that is extremely impressive.

Best Intentions is a roller coaster of a novel and such a fun, wildly intense ride. I love it when books make me think and there were some seriously thought-provoking ethical dilemmas here. This was such an emotional, compelling read that I tore through in a single sitting and have no problem recommending! I’m VERY excited to see what Erika does next!

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Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
Pub. Date: August 1, 2017
Source: Finished hardback via publisher (Thank you, Simon & Schuster!)
Summary: When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery

When I was initially pitched Girl in Snow, I was more than a little intrigued: a very young (25, I think??) author whose debut novel received blurbs from Paula Hawkins, Lee Child, Owen King, and other huge heavy-hitters. I leapt at the chance to get my hands on this one and immediately dove in when it arrived at my door!

On a cold, snowy night, Lucinda Hayes dies and her death – her murder – rocks a quiet Colorado town. Immediately after, speculation and rumors spread like wildfire and fingers instantly begin pointing at the high school janitor, a man with a criminal past and the one to discover her body; at Cameron, a fellow student and Lucinda’s neighbor who would take to standing out in the street just watching her house; at the art teacher Mr. O – students swear he saw her as more than just a 15-year-old in his class.

Told through three voices: Cameron’s, Jade’s, and Russ’s, Girl in Snow is far more an in-depth character study than a crime novel, though eventually it’s revealed who murdered Lucinda (don’t expect a satisfying ending however, though the killer is identified, there aren’t any confessions or first-hand accounts detailing just what went on that night, it’s all quickly glossed over). Instead, the book explores the lives of these three characters and it’s clear that no one in their town has a happy life.

Cameron is quiet, especially in the wake of his father’s trial and disappearance. Lee was a police officer accused of killing a woman (a woman he was secretly having an affair with) and though he got off on a not guilty verdict, the town felt otherwise and one night he simply vanished. Took off without another word, leaving his wife to pick up the pieces. Cameron is deeply troubled, obsessed with his Statue Nights – nights where he walks around the neighborhood, essentially spying on people. He was madly in love with Lucinda and would climb trees in her yard in order to watch her through her bedroom window. His gift for drawing became downright creepy since he amassed a collection of sketches of Lucinda – including one showing her lifeless body, though he swears he has no memory of that night.

Jade hides behind short dresses and combat boots, shooting mean looks at the world. When Lucinda dies, Jade feels partly responsible – just before her death, Jade performed a ritual she found in a book. She hated Lucinda, the oh so glamorous girl who initially co-babysat a little girl until the Thorntons slowly began choosing Lucinda over Jade. For years Jade’s best friend was Zap…until Lucinda came along. While Jade was in love with Zap, he made it clear that he didn’t feel the same, again, another instance where Jade was brushed off in favor of Lucinda.

The sole adult perspective is through Russ’s eyes. He’s a cop, Lee’s old partner, and feels trapped in both his job and marriage. The janitor is his brother-in-law and Ivan only has that position because of some serious interference on Russ’s part. When Ivan is brought in for questioning, it only deepens the cracks in Russ’s marriage.

Multiple affairs caused by unhappy marriages, an abusive parent, a new mother who is in the hospital rather than at home with her baby because she has cancer, I’m struggling to remember one happy character or at the very least one who wasn’t dealing with a horrible tragedy. While reading Girl in Snow, I constantly felt dirty, grimy, much like I did when reading Lindsay Hunter’s Ugly Girls and immediately wanted to take a shower after finishing the book, as though I could wash away the grit of the characters.

I read a review that mentioned how little dialogue was in the book (again, much more of an inside look into the characters) and was surprised to realize that I truly didn’t notice! Unlike Impossible Views of the World, where the lack of dialogue was painfully evident, with Girl in Snow, I never felt that something was amiss and for that, I’m deeply impressed.

Don’t go into Girl in Snow expecting an action-packed murder mystery. Instead, the book is VERY quiet, very slow – though not in a bad way. I loved the character exploration, that inner look into their minds and (extremely unhappy) lives. While I was left wanting more from the ultimate reveal, I’m also left incredibly impressed by Danya Kukafka’s debut. She’s wickedly talented and younger than me – jealous! – and I can only imagine her career to soar from here.

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weekly wrap-up 8/13

• This week was Bay’s adoptionversary!! Two years down, a lifetime to go ♥

• Anyone else a leftie? Today is International Lefthanders Day!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Emma in the Night is Wendy Walker’s latest, her follow-up to last year’s All is Not Forgotten (which I enjoyed! Emma is just as engrossing and had me flipping the pages, eager to find out the ending. ..though I have to admit, the Big Reveal left me disappointed. I’m definitely in the minority though!

Heidi Chiavaroli’s debut (!!!) Freedom’s Ring was fantastic and I didn’t want it to end! Told in two voices, this one bounces between just about the Boston Marathon bombing and the Revolutionary War and I was HOOKED y’all. Loved this one!


The Vengeance of Mothers by Jim Fergus
When I was a bookseller, One Thousand White Women was still massively popular, despite having first been published in 1998. I had no idea there was going to be a sequel until it showed up at my door! I’ve never read the first, though you all know I’m a huge historical fiction fan, but I’m curious about this one. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

The Visitors by Catherine Burns
A decaying house. A 50-year-old spinster who still sleeps with teddy bears. Her brother’s horrifying secret in the basement. This sounds creepy and atmospheric and I am ALL about disturbing families – this sounds like a perfect fall read! Thank you, Gallery!

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Things were bad enough for Dylan when she was just the younger sister of a former Miss Mississippi. But now Dusty has won the hand of a handsome Scot on a reality show, Prince in Disguise, and Dylan realizes her troubles have only just begun. Scotland, reality tv, a prince – tell me this isn’t a total guilty pleasure read!! I can’t wait to dive in! Thank you, Disney-Hyperion!

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Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli
Pub. Date: August 8, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Tyndale!)
Summary: Boston, 2015 Two years after nearly losing her life in the Boston Marathon bombing, Annie David is still far from “Boston strong.” Instead she remains isolated and defeated―plagued by guilt over her niece, crippled in the blast, and by an antique ring alongside a hazy hero’s face. But when she learns the identity of her rescuer, will he be the hero she’s imagined? And can the long-past history of the woman behind the ring set her free from the guilt and fears of the present?

Boston, 1770 As a woman alone in a rebellious town, Liberty Caldwell finds herself in a dangerous predicament. When a British lieutenant, Alexander Smythe, comes to her rescue and offers her employment, Liberty accepts. As months go by, Alexander not only begins to share his love of poetry with her, but protects Liberty from the advances of a lecherous captain living in the officers’ house where she works.

Mounting tensions explode in the Boston Massacre, and Liberty’s world is shattered as her brother, with whom she has just reunited, is killed in the fray. Desperate and alone, she returns home, only to be assaulted by the captain. Afraid and furious toward redcoats, Liberty leaves the officers’ home, taking with her a ring that belonged to Alexander. Two women, separated by centuries, must learn to face their fears. And when they feel they must be strong, they learn that sometimes true strength is found in surrender.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Christian Fiction

Last month, in my review of Martin Wilson’s phenomenal We Now Return to Regular Life, I mentioned that sometimes, the best books are the ones the I never knew existed. I hadn’t heard of Freedom’s Ring, nor had I heard of the author, Heidi Chiavaroli, before it appeared at my door. Having read the book, I’m so glad I’m now well aware of this fantastic writer and am ecstatic to read more of her work (aaaand that pretty much sums up the rest of this review)!

Told in chapters that alternate between the past and present, Freedom’s Ring is essentially a story about forgiveness. Annie was a runner in the Boston Marathon the day of the bombings. While she got off relatively unhurt (she still has a pain near her ankle in one of her legs) her niece, who had planned on running with her until a fall left her with a broken leg, didn’t fare so well and wound up having to have a leg amputated. While Annie stayed by Grace’s bedside in the hospital and was right there at every therapy session, soon her guilt became too much and she slowly pulled away – not only from her niece, but from her sister as well, ultimately leaving a chasm too deep and too painful for either to cross.

Back in the 1770s, Liberty Caldwell is a young woman trying to make her own way in the world. With a brother at sea and a grandmother who recently passed, Liberty is alone and, choosing the lesser of two evils, accepts a British soldier’s offer of becoming a housemaid. While the lieutenant is dashing and soft-spoken, enjoying his evenings with a book of poetry or The Odyssey, the captain – the other resident of the house – isn’t nearly as kind, but Liberty tolerates his comments so long as it means she has a warm bed at night. The night of the Boston Massacre changes everything, however, when Liberty finds her brother and loses him in an all too short span of time. While the Patriots see James’s death as a worthy and heroic sacrifice for their cause, Liberty only sees it as a pointless death, one brought on by Regulars much like her two employers and in a blind rage, she ransacks the house, taking what little of value she can find. Unfortunately, she isn’t able to leave before being brutally assaulted by the captain.

What connects these two stories, these two women, is a ring. Liberty stole the British lieutenant’s signet ring, believing she could sell it along with a few other items. During the chaos of the bombing’s aftermath, a man carried Annie to safety. Terrified, she clung to him and begged him not to leave her – in response, he gave her a ring, a family heirloom, and promised he’d come back for it, but that he needed to go do what he could to help others. What follows is in incredibly fun and fascinating dive into genealogy – years after Annie and Brad’s initial meeting of course (we can’t have things come too easily)!

As I’m typing this review, I’m rambling. A lot. In fact, I’m rambling much like I did with The One True Love of Alice-Ann, coincidentally another Tyndale title, and one that was featured on my Top Reads of 2017 part 1 list! There’s SO much to discuss about Freedom’s Ring: Liberty’s baby, apprenticing under a midwife, accepting a marriage proposal, her fear at hearing the Regulars are back in town years later – will the captain come looking for her? Has he heard about their child? In the present, Annie and Brad are slowly brought together over the mystery of the ring. Her niece welcomes Annie back into the family with open arms…but her sister isn’t quite so inviting and their attempts (for every success one will ultimately say or do something that puts them two steps back) at repairing their own relationship. Since the bombing Annie hasn’t run and both Brad and Grace are crucial in Annie facing her fears – Rocky plays a huge role in this too!

If there was one problem I had with Freedom’s Ring it was how time progressed throughout the story. Annie’s story takes place over the course of several months (maybe a year) after a brief skip following the prologue set during the midst of the Boston Marathon the day of the bombing. Liberty’s story takes place over MANY years, eventually skipping two decades at one point! I delighted in sinking into both stories, I just wish Liberty’s didn’t move quite so fast, though I certainly understand why it had to: the Boston Massacre, the Revolution, a time capsule buried 20 years after the war was instrumental to this story.

In the afterword, Heidi Chiavaroli discusses what facts she smudged or added to, but for the most part, I was extremely impressed by what was actually true: while Liberty was fictional, James Caldwell – in this book, her brother – was one of the first casualties of the cause for independence. Paul Revere and Samuel Adams really did bury a time capsule – the contents of which were recently on display in 2014! In Freedom’s Ring, Liberty places a poem in the box; naturally this never happened, but what was inside the capsule was just as exciting: coins, a Sunday morning paper, a medal depicting George Washington, a plaque. VERY interesting and I’m more than a little upset I’m only just now hearing about this! I would have loved to have seen this exhibit in person!

Once again Tyndale hit a home run (making me wildly excited for two other upcoming titles I have: Loving Luther and The Promise of Breeze Hill)!! Freedom’s Ring is a book that pulled me in, captivating me more and more with each turn of the page and I was sad to see it come to an end. Intriguing settings, fantastic characters, plots I practically inhaled, it all combined to make one excellent novel and you can rest assured that, not only will I be eagerly awaiting Heidi’s next book, but Freedom’s Ring will make another appearance at the end of the year in part 2 of my Top Reads of 2017!

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Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Pub. Date: August 8, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller

While All is Not Forgotten wasn’t her debut, it was the book that made the world take notice of Wendy Walker. Though I only posted a mini review, rest assured I was just as captivated as the rest of its readers and was beyond excited when her follow-up, the MASSIVELY buzzed-about Emma in the Night arrived at my door!

Cass and Emma didn’t have the greatest upbringing. While their father was loving and doting, their mother’s narcissistic tendencies took center stage and the divorce was particularly nasty. Now living with their mother, stepfather, and stepbrother, Cass and Emma are in a constant game of one-upmanship and barbed, snide remarks.

The night they disappeared, their mother became the one thing she always wanted: a victim. With the world looking on, she positively shined as the wounded, grieving mother who just wanted her beloved daughters, her two babies, home again in her arms. Three years later, one did return home. Cass returned, telling a horrific tale of a kidnapping, three long years spent on an isolated island, her one chance at escape…and the desperate need to go back and save her sister.

Much like All is Not Forgotten, Emma in the Night features two narrators (you know me, the more the merrier!) In alternating chapters, Cass’s tale slowly unfolds while Dr. Abby Winter, a forensic psychiatrist who worked on the missing persons case three years ago, starts to realize that details aren’t quite adding up and in writing this review I discovered just how hard this book is to discuss without spoiling anything!! And trust me, you DO NOT want to be spoiled, so please bear with me while I’m being super vague!

With a childhood as toxic as the one Cass and Emma had, could the girls have simply had enough and run away? Their mother only sought custody to ‘win.’ Her needling comments started early, moving on to seeking validation in her parenting skills, ultimately turning far more devious once the girls – namely Emma – became older. There was no hiding it: Emma was beautiful and their mother…she was still beautiful, but getting older, no longer the 20-year-old she once was. There’s one scene where Cass and Emma find their mother having sex with Emma and Cass’s stepbrother – it’s so hard to truly describe how utterly toxic that home was. Hunter and Emma were in a constant battle and any attention on Emma took the focus off their mother, something she refused to tolerate and eventually took matters into her own hands.

Cass’s story of what happened the night they disappeared and where they lived the following three years was absolutely riveting and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! I wanted to know more about this couple who took them in, gave them a place to stay when they needed it, only to reveal their true nature shortly after. Again, spoilers, but I loved Cass’s chapters and couldn’t look away. As much as I loved her tale, however, it’s when Dr. Winter sees the cracks in Cass’s story that Emma in the Night really ramps up and I was torn between needing to know more immediately and wanted to savor the story, slowly piece it all together. Let’s just say that the ending…I wasn’t expecting it at all.

While I’m still working out my feelings for the Big Reveal, I can’t deny that Emma in the Night was a wildly engrossing read and excellent follow-up to last year’s hugely popular All is Not Forgotten. I was completely invested in the story, turning the pages at a blinding pace just to know more about these girls and what really happened the three years they were gone. I have no doubt in my mind that this book will be one of the books to read this year and I can’t wait to see what Wendy Walker does next!