Nonfiction Recommendations

Do you read nonfiction books?  I do, quite a bit, and always enjoy them! As you may recall, a while back I posted that The Radium Girls by Kate Moore was my favorite nonfiction book this year and I am definitely sticking to that.  However, today I thought I would write a little about two other great nonfiction books I read in 2017 – both of which I gave five stars and both of which relate to Labor relations in America – much as The Radium Girls did.

The first, Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle, tells the harrowing story of the disaster at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in the Greenwich Village industrial area of New York City back in 1911.  The fire, that started close to the top of the building swept through three floors and ultimately took the lives of close to 150 people – mostly young, immigrant women. This book tells their stories, the events of that infamous day and the results that such a catastrophe set into motion. An amazing and tragic story- one with lasting effects for worker and workplace safety. Somewhat surprisingly, I had never come across this historical event before and I am so glad to have read this book. Best described as an in-depth examination of the Labor movement, immigration and politics of the time; this book is intimate and startling, as well as fiercely moving. I loved it and learned so much!

The next, Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into Darkness by Neil Swidey, focuses on the waste treatment plant project on Deer Island in Boston Harbor back in the 1990s. Due to a massively polluted Harbor the Commonwealth of Massachusetts undertook this enormous project that required multiple different companies, teams and specialties. This is mainly the story of the tunnel under the Harbor and the 5-men sent in at the end to remove plugs prior to use. I really enjoyed this book although I found it depressing – the truth is sometimes depressing. I think it is an important read, especially for the people of Massachusetts (of which I am one). I think the author did a great job of memorializing the “ordinary heroes” -the men who took on this project; two of whom didn’t make it out alive. A classic David versus Goliath tale but unfortunately in this one, Goliath wins. I loved the engineering and science aspects of this story as well. A good reminder to us all that behind the infrastructure of our country, that we often take for granted, are the lives of thousands of men and women who risk their lives to make it possible.

Review: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is another one of my 5-star reads from this year.  I finished up with this one in September and was once again blown away by Hill’s talent. I had previously read his novel, Horns, which has since been turned into a movie starring Harry Potter…..I mean, Daniel Radcliffe. For those of you who have never heard of Hill, he is the richly talented son of my favorite writer, Stephen King. Is writing genetic? Possibly.

In this one, we meet Judas Coyne, an aging rock star who has a penchant for younger women and collecting obscure, macabre items. This odd hobby (the item collection, not the younger women) brings him to buy a dead man’s suit and thus it begins – a gritty ghost story that grabs you from the very first chapter. I could not put this one down once I started. Joe Hill is such a fantastic writer – he writes with such persuasion and conviction that you find yourself believing what the narrator is telling you, no matter how dark. You can dive right into this one and never look up if you allow yourself. This was so creative and fast-paced and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute!

As a side note, I am currently reading Hill’s novel, NOS4A2 (which is a wonderful Christmas time read), and it is proving to be my favorite of his works thus far!!  If you like dark, you have to read Hill!

Review: The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen

Expected Publication Date: March 2018

*I received an ARC-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I would give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars – I had so much fun reading this book! Originally, I went into it thinking, historical fiction, but quickly discovered it is really so much more than that. The book does weave a bit of historical fiction into what is actually more of a modern day murder mystery. The main storyline takes place in Deeprath Castle, a very old (and possibly haunted) castle in the County Wicklow, Ireland, which has been in the Gallagher family for generations. Our protagonist, Carragh, is an archivist hired on to inventory the extensive historical library prior to the castle’s potential sale. There she finds not just books but mystery, suspense, gothic settings, a potential love match, long guarded family secrets and an unsolved murder that sees its investigation rekindled.

Throughout the book the chapters shift between present time, the late 1880s and the 1990s. In addition to Carragh, we meet a full cast of Gallaghers, as well as some outside players. I loved this aspect of the book and enjoyed watching the multiple generations of storylines eventually tie together. Many of the characters were extremely likable and I wouldn’t mind reading more about them in the future- particularly Aidan and Carragh- I know their stories can’t end here!

There is so much to love about this book and I am hoping that many, many readers get to enjoy it as much as I did – a big thank you to Ballantine Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book!

Another great thing about 2017….

Happy Saturday my bookish friends!  Earlier today I was watching a few different booktubers and it is definitely the time of year for wrap-ups!  While I was thinking back over the books I have read this year (73 books in all, if you’re interested in that sort of thing), I tried to pull together my top 5 to 10 books. This is a much harder task to do than one would think.  I haven’t decided what exactly those will be for now so decided to write a little bit today about an author, new to me, that I discovered in 2017.

Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006) is a phenomenal American science-fiction writer who I certainly wish I would have discovered earlier in life.  Her writing is intelligent, heartfelt and oddly prescient of today’s political climate, e.g. The Earthseed Series, (please look this up on Goodreads if you haven’t heard of it).

Kindred, originally published in 1979 was the first Butler book I read and I am very glad I started with that one.  In fact, I feel that is a good starting point to anyone new to her writings. I’m not sure I can properly convey in words how much I enjoyed this book. First person slave narrative portrayed by a person not of that time, seeing that time with fresh eyes; a true examination of American history. Categorized as a science fiction novel, the only sci-fi element really was the time travel that allowed Dana, our protagonist, to travel back through time to antebellum Maryland. It was seamless and simple and worked very well with the story. I was moved to the point of tears in the last portion of the book and my brain was still running in circles hours after finishing it. I loved everything about this book. It didn’t shy away from harsh topics: rape, slavery, race relations – I found it real and meaningful. I would recommend this book to anyone, everyone – get your copy today!!

Mr. Mercedes – Where it all begins….

No doubt if you follow me on Instagram you are aware that The Bill Hodges Trilogy by Stephen King holds a very special place in my heart.  As I have never reviewed the books here on my blog, I figured I would start at the beginning with a quick review for Mr. Mercedes.

The first book of the Bill Hodges Trilogy, Mr. Mercedes, is a fast-paced crime thriller with the most dangerous villain I have read in a while. Brady Hartsfield is smart, deranged and so easy to hate. Along with his truly vile mother, Deborah, these two will leave your stomach churning. Brady is so creative in his wickedness it isn’t surprising it takes three books to tell his tale.

This book sets up the rest of the trilogy well and does a splendid job introducing us to our humble hero, Retired Detective Kermit William ‘Bill’ Hodges, who along with his neighborhood friend, teenager Jerome Robinson, work diligently to nab the ‘Mr. Mercedes’ killer. Closer to the end, we are introduced to Holly Gibney, the emotionally damaged cousin of Bill’s short-term girlfriend, Janey. Holly, throughout the course of the series, turns into one of my favorite characters – loyal, intelligent and snarky, Holly often provides a bit of humor and insight into the stressful, violence filled storylines. Jerome, as well, is quite humorous and him and Holly’s personalities play off each other quite well. Although different from the vast majority of King’s works, I am so in love with this trilogy that I rave about it often. The books are tied together in such an odd, yet seamless way, that it is nothing short of brilliant. King definitely knocked this one out of the park – the series gets better and better and is one-hell of a thrilling ride!

2017 Wrap-Up, Post #1

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, I thought it may be a good time to work on some year-end wrap-up posts.  In book news this year, I discovered audiobooks.  One reason I had never considered audiobooks a viable option for me was the price, they are really expensive!  However, due to a bookish forum I am a part of on Facebook (specifically the Owlcrate subscribers forum) I discovered the Overdrive app which allows me to loan audiobooks from my local library for free!  What a revelation.

How does it work? It is so simple! I browse their electronic library, check-out the book I want and download it directly to my phone on loan for 14 days. Now I can listen to books while walking my dog, driving to and from work and cleaning around the house.  Having made this discovery has really enhanced the number of books I can get through per year and has truly become a staple of my every day life.

One of my favorite books that I have read this year was actually my 2nd audiobook – The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (the pen name of the beloved J.K. Rowling – yes, that J.K. Rowling).  Originally published in 2013, this gritty crime novel introduces us to the gruff and brilliant detective, Cormoran Strike and is the first book in a currently four book series.

As an audiobook the narrator they chose was wonderful; absolutely perfect for this story. I hope he continues on as narrator for the rest of the series. The story itself was right up my alley. I love characters like Cormoran – gritty and flawed yet super intelligent, humble and genuine. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Cormoran and his accidental assistant, Robin. I can’t wait to watch their relationship grow as the series continues. The mystery was very strong – it never let up and the police procedural aspect with which Cormoran went about his investigation was spot on, I felt. I will definitely be continuing with this series! Well done, JK!

Review: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

Happy Tuesday book world!  Short post from me today, as my most recent read can best be summed up with, “meh”.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman, first published in May of 2016, had some moments of suspense but overall, I would give this book 3.5-stars. It was entertaining but fell a little short of being truly captivating. I listened to it on audiobook which was fine. They used two narrators to differentiate between present time versus flashbacks. The text mixed long-held family secrets together with a modern murder investigation. A lot was revealed over the course of the book that brings to mind the concept that no matter how perfect a family appears on the outside, for the most part, we all have secrets and skeletons in the ole’ family closets. I’m not sure I would really seek out other books by this author – as far as modern thrillers go, for me, this one fell a little short of the ‘thrilling’ part.

In other news, I had to leave for work today with 10 pages left in Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – now that one is a page turner!!!  I hope everyone has a wonderful day and gets lots of pages read!


Status Update: The Darkling Bride

Hello book friends!  I just wanted to give a quick status update on my progress through The Darkling Bride by Laura Andersen.  As I may have mentioned in a earlier post, I received an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of this book from the publisher, Ballantine Books, in exchange for an honest review which has an expected publication date of April 2018.

I am currently just over 60% through this book.  I am loving it!  Originally, I went into the book thinking, historical fiction, but I have discovered it is really so much more than that.  The book does weave a bit of historical fiction into what is actually more of a modern day murder mystery.  The main storyline takes place in a very old (and possibly haunted) castle in the County Wicklow.  Our protagonist, Carragh, is an archivist sent to the castle to archive their extensive historical library.  There she finds not just books but mystery, suspense, gothic settings, a potential love match, long guarded family secrets and an unsolved murder that sees its investigation rekindled.

There is so much to love about this book and I am hoping that many, many readers get to enjoy it as much as I am once it is published in the Spring!

Behind Closed Doors – Progress Report

Good morning book lovelies!  This morning prior to work, while drinking my first coffee of the day, I sat down to continue, Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.  This is my first Paris book and it is definitely an edge of your seat thriller.  Truth be told, I am finding it really, really frustrating!  I like it.  I can’t put it down but I am getting so aggravated it is actually a wee bit stressful.

Aptly named, the book is about that couple we all know that seems just so damned perfect.  However, it’s what goes on behind closed doors that gets interesting – or horrifying as the case is here. I am 60% through this book and am loving the past/present alternation of the chapters; I frequently enjoy books that are formatted this way. My main aggravation with the book comes with the behavior of one of the main characters.  It is definitely a book that makes you think of what you would do if you were put in a certain situation and I can’t help but feel like our protagonist makes some very weak decisions – but really who am I to judge unless I am in the situation?

Have you read this book?  Did you find yourself feeling stressed and angry while reading it? I know it is going to come to the conclusion I am hoping for….I mean, it has to, right??  Ugh, I have to get home and read more!!!

Happy December 1st!!!

Happy December 1st bookworms!  Going green with my type today getting in the mood for the holiday- wreaths, Christmas trees and red & green packages under your tree!  Since we will be wrapping up the year soon I decided to share a little bit about Warcross by Marie Lu.  This has been my favorite fiction book I have read thus far this year.

Firstly, I preordered this book based on the cover alone – it’s gorgeous!  Luckily for me, this book is way more than a pretty cover.  I was blown away – it was brilliant. I loved everything about it. Emika Chen is a phenomenal female protagonist – smart, strong, independent – everything we should aspire to be. The gaming elements and competitive feel of this book kept it rolling along nicely with plenty of action. The final two chapters – amazing – they say so much about our times, real life issues and philosophical ideas that could be hotly debated. I cannot wait for the next book to be released – I know for sure I will be preordering it!

What has been your favorite book thus far this year?