Christmas by the Book

In an unsurprising turn of events, almost every gift I gave this year involved a book.  While I am posting this after the holiday itself, I’m sharing it because I’m proud of how each gift reflects the reading personality of the recipient and because maybe it’ll give you ideas for next year! Continue reading

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit

Thank you to the team at Berkley Pub for gifting me this copy of A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray.  All thoughts and images are my own.

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

February 1906.  As the personal secretary of the recently departed Duke of Olympia – and a woman of scrupulous character – Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove never expected her duties to involve steaming through the Mediterranean on a private yacht under the prodigal eye of one Lord Silverton, the most charmingly corrupt bachelor in London.  But here they are, improperly bound on a quest to find the duke’s enigmatic heir, current whereabouts unknown. Continue reading

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America.  An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds. Continue reading

Hiddensee

Thank you to the wonderful people at William Morrow Books for gifting me this copy of Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire.  All thoughts and images are my own.

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and to wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E.T.A. Hoffmann – the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich.  Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve.  At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier – the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s ballet – who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter. Continue reading

Still Life

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team of investigators are called to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal and yet a world away.  Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods on Thanksgiving morning.  The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season… Continue reading

Caraval

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father.  Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval – the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show – are over. Continue reading

Bonfire

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small-town roots.  Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.   Continue reading

Catalina

Thank you, FSG Originals, for this copy of Catalina by Liska Jacobs.  All thoughts and images are my own.

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Elsa Fisher is headed for rock bottom.  At least, that’s her plan.  She has just been fired from MoMA on the heels of an affair with her married boss, and she retreats to Los Angeles to blow her severance package on whatever it takes to numb the pain.  Her abandoned crew of college friends receives Elsa with open arms and a plan to celebrate their reunion on a booze-soaked sailing trip to Catalina Island.  

But Elsa doesn’t want to celebrate.  She is lost, lonely, and full of rage, and wants only to sink as low as the drugs and alcohol will take her.  On Catalina, her determined unraveling and recklessness expose painful memories and dark desires, putting everyone in the group at risk.

Morgan’s thoughts:

There are few characters in the history of books that I have hated more than I hated Elsa.  She was destructive and selfish – Jacobs blesses her with a keen sense of insight, which only makes it all the more horrible when she ignores her intelligent perceptions of the people around her and hurts them anyway.

No one ever addresses her dependency on alcohol and drugs in any real way; throughout the novel, she interacts with her mother, her lover, her ex-husband, and her closest friends from childhood and college.  The most anyone says is her ex-husband noticing that she is on “another bender.”  Everyone acknowledges how intoxicated she is the entire time but no one seems concerned about the effect this is most likely having on her body.

I found this book painful with no payoff.  Want to form your own opinions?  Find it here on Amazon or at your local independent bookstore, and then let’s compare.