Review: Class Mom by Laurie Gelman


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Published: 1 August 2017

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Category: Fiction/Chick Lit

Laurie Gelman’s clever debut novel about a year in the life of a kindergarten class mom–a brilliant send-up of the petty and surprisingly cutthroat terrain of parent politics.

Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom–or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max–this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the -wisest- candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents’ response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of -special- brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen’s methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen’s past, a hyper-sensitive -allergy mom, – a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.

Relatable, irreverent, and hilarious in the spirit of Maria Semple this is a fresh, welcome voice in fiction–the kind of novel that real moms clamor for, and a vicarious thrill-read for all mothers, who will be laughing as they are liberated by Gelman’s acerbic truths.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

I love hearing stories about snarky moms, especially ones that have to deal with classroom settings because I am the mother of a kindergartner-going-into-first-grader and I do not have the mental wherewithal to deal with the politics and such that go along with the PTA and its members. Jennifer sounded like she was going to be a blast because her humor sounded like it would be my cup of tea, especially when going up against the other moms such as those described in the summary.

One of the main reasons I’m rating this 3 stars is that I thought there was a problem with balance in Jennifer and her personality. I definitely appreciated and laughed at her emails in the beginning, emails to the other parents in her son Max’s class that called them out on response times, volunteer excursions, etc., but the amount of snark and sass felt like it was crammed into the first half of the novel with a severe drop in the second half. This isn’t to say that there was none, but I definitely felt the difference and being inundated at the beginning with something of a drought at the end made the book suffer for me.

Another of the reasons is something of the racist comments that Jennifer makes. Very early on in the book she makes a comment in an email to the class parents about one of the parents’ people’s “need for power”. This instance gets called out later on, thankfully, but both the parent in question and is in fact one of the reasons that Jennifer temporarily loses her job as class mom. While she does apologize to Asami, I’m not sure how sincere it was because when she was confronted by the principal she was very vehement about it being a joke.


There are also other occasions when Jennifer makes a comment about “going native”: once in regard to her friend Nina, who I think was African-American, saying she was going to take her afro “native” and another time when Jennifer herself was talking about her personal female grooming and how it had “gone native” down there. In opposition to the comment she made regarding Asami, these are never addressed on the page and made it feel like they were being condoned, since Jennifer was never caught using them.

Jennifer’s character become a bit more problematic for me when she was making horrible comments (again, never confronted because she “luckily” never said them aloud) about a couple of the parents: the wife she viewed as not attractive while the husband was a “total hunk”. This coupling didn’t fit in with her view and she made snide internal comments about how “hot goes with hot, average goes with average”, how the wife must have money for it to be possible, and how she is determined to find proof that the husband married her for a green card. These moments gave me serious WTF vibes.



If it weren’t for these moments, I think I would’ve liked the book a bit more. Unbalanced humor aside, the characters were tabloid types that you might expect to see in chick lit. I liked Jennifer’s husband, Ron, and his bonding with his son. While I could see him trying really hard to get Max into sports and things that he liked, he never got super strict and demanded that his son like these things. He tried a lot and found things they could enjoy together, rather than forcing him into something Max would resent him for later on.

Now that the school year is over for Jennifer and Max is going on to the first grade, I have to wonder what next year’s batch of emails to going to be like.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History’s Great Cat-loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen by Sam Kalda


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Published: April 2017

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Category: Non-fiction/History/Animals

A stylish, illustrated gift book from an award-winning artist that profiles
notable cat-loving men throughout history in words and pictures.

Of Cats and Men presents a fresh approach to cat entertainment that’s smart,
sweet, and driven by beautiful art (instead of tacky photography, as many cat
books are). Appealing to both men and women, the “cat men” approach is a fun
twist on the “cat lady” stereotype and makes for a highly giftable book. The 30
men profiled range from writers and artists such as Haruki Murakami, T.S. Eliot,
William S. Burroughs, and Ai Weiwei, to historical luminaries such as Sir Winston
Churchill, Nikola Tesla, and Sir Issac Newton. In addition to the portraits, the book
features beautifully hand-lettered quotes about cats by some of the men,
including Twain’s “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without
further introduction.”

Rating: 4 Stars

For anyone that considers themselves a cat person, this book will introduce to fellows in your company: men throughout history that loved and love cats across a spectrum of disciplines. Artists and musicians, dancers and writers, and more, each with at least that one common trait: a love of cats.

Starting back in the tenth century with King Hywel the Good (who introduced laws to protect domestic cats around 920 A.D.) and concluding with Ai Weiwei (an activist who frequently has cats in his pieces), this book covers quite a lot of people that I both knew to be cat people, like Ernest Hemingway, and others that I had not heard of before or didn’t realize were fellow cat lovers. Each one page mini-essay gives the reader a brief glimpse into the life of the subject, as well as why they’re a cat person.

It’s interesting to see how these beautiful creatures touched the lives of so many people. There are people covered by the book that might have a darker side, or at least a more controversial side if their personal history was delved into, but that isn’t covered in this book. It is their connection to feline kind that is examined with maybe a hint at more unsavory topics.

Sam Kalda’s artistic renderings of the men he talked about within this book seemed to be relatively accurate, insofar as I recognized the men that I knew previously and was able to see the likeness of those that’d I’d at least heard of albeit never seen. There was a newspaper comic quality to them that I liked because they were neither too serious nor too silly. The colors as well were a mellow blend that complimented each subject.

Men are usually associated with dogs (man’s best friend, etc.) and I liked that this collection took a look those men in history that preferred cats. I would like to see a future collection of Cat Women, because while it may be a stereotype (crazy cat lady, etc.) that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this instance. I think personally that man, or woman, can appreciate felines in their emotional depth, their hilarity, their companionship, and all that they do for us humans.



I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

DNF Review: Detention Land: Lip Service by Susan Orion


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Published: 6 November 2016

Publisher: BookBaby

Category: Young Adult/Thriller

This ain’t no ordinary high school. Trapped in a room of clever lies, unlikely confessions, and a whole lotta lip, the only way to escape is by uncovering the truth. Four walls, two voices, one chance. Who is the woman behind the wall? Solve the puzzle. Save the boy. This is Detention Land.

With access to Roger’s private journals, the reader is transported into the detention room, watching as it unravels, brick by brick, piece by piece. Inspired by true events, Detention Land is a contemporary classic that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Rating: DNF

This book sounded like it would be really engaging. I’ve read books before where the reader is given bits of the same puzzle the characters are trying to solve, to see if they could solve it first. When the summary for Detention Land gave hints that it would be very much like this, trying to figure out why the main character Roger is locked in a barbaric detention room, I thought I’d give it a try.

I had to DNF this book at 43% because it was so frustratingly boring. Roger was an aggravating character. I would’ve understood if this was a reaction to being in the detention room, but then there were journal entries that just made me dislike him more. In the detention room scenes I got the feeling that Roger might be a bully on the outside, though there were a couple of sentences that offered a glimmer of redemption for him. However, these were once again countered by the journal entries were he revealed a manipulative personality that I disliked reading intensely.

I’m all for unlikable characters (Joe from You, The Darkling from the Shadow & Bone series) but there also has to be something about them that makes me want to know what happens next to them, to find out more about their story. Roger is nowhere near either of  these characters and I did not care to read to the end to find out one more iota of information about him.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose


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Published: 18 July 2017

Publisher: Atria Books

Category: Historical/Fantasy/Magic

In this riveting and richly drawn novel from “one of the master storytellers of historical fiction” (New York Times bestseller Beatriz Williams), a talented young artist flees New York for Paris after one of her scandalous drawings reveals a dark secret—and triggers a terrible tragedy.

In the wake of a dark and brutal World War, the glitz and glamour of 1925 Manhattan shine like a beacon for the high society set, which is desperate to keep their gaze firmly fixed to the future. But Delphine Duplessi sees more than most. At a time in her career when she could easily be unknown and penniless, like so many of her classmates from L’École de Beaux Arts, in America she has gained notoriety for her stunning “shadow portraits” that frequently expose her subjects’ most scandalous secrets—for better or for worse. Most nights Delphine doesn’t mind that her gift has become mere entertainment—a party trick—for the fashionable crowd. Though her ancestor La Lune, the legendary sixteenth-century courtesan and—like Delphine—a witch, might have thought differently.

Then, on a snowy night in February, in a penthouse high above Fifth Avenue, Delphine’s mystical talent leads to a tragedy between two brothers. Horrified, she renounces her gift.

Devastated and disconsolate, Delphine returns to her old life in the south of France where Picasso, Matisse, and the Fitzgeralds are summering. There, Delphine is thrust into recapturing the past. First by her charismatic twin brother and business manager Sebastian in his attempts to cajole her back to work and into co-dependence, then by the world famous opera singer Emma Calvé, who is obsessed with the centuries-old Book of Abraham, written by the fourteenth-century alchemist Nicolas Flamel. And finally by her ex-lover Mathieu, who is determined to lure her back into his arms, unaware of the danger that had led Delphine to flee Paris for New York five years before.

Trapped in an ancient chateau where hidden knowledge lurks in the shadows, Delphine questions and in many ways rejects what and who she loves the most—her art, her magick, her family, her brother, and Mathieu—as she tries to finally accept them as the gifts they are and to shed her fear of loving and living with her eyes wide open.

Rating: 5 Stars

I fell into a series in and I didn’t mean to, but having read The Library of Light and Shadow I think it may turn out to be quite fortuitous. This book introduced me to a world that had a unique background, intriguing characters, and a plot that balanced between the magical and the real, the ornate and the simple.

This book was chock full of characters, both based on real life people and those of the author’s imagination. Some were sympathetic, like the main character Delphine, a painter whose portraits reveal the secrets of her subjects; some were mysterious, like Gaspard, the caretaker of the chateau that Delphine is commissioned to paint; and others are suspicious, like Sebastian, Delphine’s twin, who as a male La Lune descendant did not inherit a magical gift and yet is intertwined with Delphine’s as her manager. There were the real life personages, like Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, writers, artists, singers, etc., that were summering in France and that Delphine met through friends and through family connections. I was amazed at the sheer scope of her family’s influence, the people that they knew because of their abilities and their longevity. Whether the author’s portrayal of these people’s personalities was accurate or not is unknown to me, but they all felt authentic in the moment of this story.

The settings that were seen throughout the book are another thing altogether. There was sumptuousness throughout and Delphine never seemed far from the fine things in life, even when she was living in her small studio apartment in New York. There were colors and fabrics co-mingling that I don’t think I’d have thought of pairing together, but reading them here I think that the author found an interesting balance. The ornateness of Delphine’s life, whether it was her family’s home or the chateau that she has to draw, bordered on the line of obscene at times, but always the story was brought back from the brink before it crossed over.

As for the plot itself, I felt so sad for the burden that Delphine, as well as her female relatives, must carry. Powers like the ones that they have felt like the kind that are often described as more like curses than gifts and there is, in fact, a curse to their family: they only get one shot at true love. That is terrible, even more so when we realize why Delphine fled to New York in the first place and why it feels like such a terrible thing for her to return to France. Her relationship with Mathieu felt pretty well-developed, it was physically intense, and he seemed to really understand her, even after she left him in an effort to protect him, following a shadow portrait that revealed a future that she interpreted in a specific way.

The character I knew I would feel the most betrayal from, and yet couldn’t help but go along with Delphine’s belief in them, was her brother Sebastian. I knew from the summary that there was a history of co-dependence, which made a lot of sense considering his lack of magical abilities, but watching his manipulation of Delphine was intense. It was so subtle that even Delphine did not see it for a majority of the book, even though I was suspecting things by the way he was pressuring her to return to painting against her wishes. When the depth of his deviousness is revealed at the end of the book, even that was a surprise despite the way I’d been feeling about him. The author’s handling of her characters painted an interesting portrait of familial commitment and the blindness that Delphine had toward her brother and his actions for a long time.

M.J. Rose wrote a rich text in The Library of Light and Shadow. It’s the third in the series, but as I said earlier, it isn’t necessary to read the previous two books. I’d strongly recommend going back to them though, especially if they’re anything like Delphine’s story because a tale of magic and beauty and life like this should be enjoyed like the fine drinks and food that the characters consumed: often and with gusto.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland


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Published: 20 April 2017

Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

Category: Women’s Fiction/Books About Books

You can trust a book to keep your secret . . .

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she’ll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can’t hide any longer.

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, with the emotional intensity of The Shock of the Fall and all the charm of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

Rating: 5 Stars

This book is not a fast read, but then again neither is one of my favorite books of all time (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). Not all books have to be, when the author can find the right pace and divulge the inner workings of their characters in the proper moment.

Loveday, the main character, has us in her head for the entirety of the book and we learn things as she reveals them in the present day to us, and in flashbacks: the times that lead up to the destruction of her family and the times that saw her facing someone whose continued presence in her present day is reminiscent of the relationship between her parents. Everything has a reason, which I found interesting. The author didn’t waste anything, or anyone.

Besides Loveday, there was a whole cast of characters that gave something to the story, whether it was Archie, the proprietor of the bookshop, or Nathan, Loveday’s love interest, or even the workers/patrons of Lost for Words.

My favorite thing about Lost for Words was how powerful some scenes were, even if there wasn’t a lot of typical “action” going on at the moment. For instance, Loveday’s reaction to the Penguin Classics she unpacks in one scene, in thinking that they’re her mother’s books from long ago, reminded me of a nostalgic/deja vu feeling I get when I’m in a second hand bookshop. Seeing books on the shelves that I know I own at home, seeing them in another environment, is both heartwarming and strange, especially if they happen to be in the series arrangement as my own collection. Loveday’s remembering her mother buying a Penguin Classic every two weeks for a year made her and her family even more familiar to me, even if her mum didn’t read them (in my case it’s a runaway tbr, in Loveday’s mum’s case…who knows?).

However, this scene takes on a potentially darker tone when more books from Loveday’s past keep showing up at the shop, books she hasn’t seen in fifteen years and that have no right to be surfacing now, in the shop she works at of all places. The eeriness of such an occurrence was so subtle I almost didn’t realize what was happening at first, but the more time that I spent in Loveday’s present tense chapters, the more I realized that something strange was going on and the more I wanted to find out what it all meant.

There are more of these eerie moments as the book goes on, as we get more glimpses into Loveday’s past and discover what really happened to make her into the person she is now. Ultimately the truth is revealed to the reader and then there is the journey toward her making peace with that, with herself, and with those around her that love her, just as she is.

You’re never quite sure, reading this book, whether there will be a happy ending or not, whether one is even possible, but it’s the finding out that’s interesting, not the actual getting.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Blog Tour: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy – Interview With the Author & Giveaway

thumbnail_The Disappearances

2017 has quite the plethora of eerie books coming out and today I get the chance to share with you an interview with the author of one of them. The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy is about a small town that has an inexplicable occurrence every seven years: things disappear. Things you would never have imagined to be things that would disappear, but now they do. Why? Where do they go? How do they relate to the main character? The book is out now, luckily, so you’ll be able to find those answers for yourself. For now, let’s see what Emily has to say about a few things:


If you were to pick an animal to represent The Disappearances, or perhaps even the town of Sterling itself, what one do you think it would be?

A chameleon! Not only because they can make themselves “disappear”—but also because the people in Sterling are sort of like chameleons in a way. They constantly have to adapt themselves to fit in and pretend as though the disappearances aren’t happening to them, so I think it’s actually the perfect animal to describe their situation.

If you had the chance, would you want The Disappearances to become adapted into another format, such as a film, miniseries, or television show? Which do you think would be the most beneficial to the story of The Disappearances?

The Disappearances is a standalone with a completed arc so I would love to see it in movie form or as a miniseries. It’s such a visual book and I think it would translate so well onto the screen, so that would be absolutely amazing if it ever happened.

Do you create aesthetics as you work or something like a Pinterest board to keep visual straight?

I do! I have a Pinterest board that especially helped me visualize the different aspects of forties life, from the way that a main street of the town might look, and the cars they were driving at the time, and the advertisements that were hanging on the walls; what clothes and shoes they were wearing; how they styled their hair, etc. It was so helpful to build a visual scrapbook to reference. (Thank you, Pinterest!)

What’s been the single scariest/most nerve-wracking thing about becoming a published author?

Starting to get people’s feedback in early reviews is so terrifying. You love your story, but everyone isn’t going to—so it’s very nerve-wracking to see if your thoughts and feelings and ideas are going to resonate with people or completely miss.

On the flip-side, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming an author that’s made you happy?

I’ve recently met some young aspiring authors who were so excited, and they reminded me so much of myself. It just made me feel very honored and gratified that I could make someone feel happy as they look forward to their own dreams. Also, the author community is incredible and I’ve met some people who have become some of my very best friends.

If you could describe your novel in five words, what would they be?

Magical historical mystery with Shakespeare.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today!!


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Published: 4 July 2017

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Fantasy/Mystery

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

About the Author

14865445Emily Bain Murphy grew up in Indiana, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and has also called Massachusetts and Connecticut home.

She loves books, Japanese karaoke, exploring new cities, and anything with Nutella. Her debut YA fantasy, THE DISAPPEARANCES, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017.

Murphy currently lives in San Francisco with her family and is at work on her second novel.

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7/9 Tour Stops

Mystery Board – Pondering The Prose

Review – The Inkdin Book Blog

7/16 Tour Stops

Interview – The Hermit Librarian

Review – Bayy in Wonderland

Review – Lost in Ever After

Unique Post – Dani Reviews Things

Review – Mikayla’s Bookshelf

Review – Little Book Wyrm

7/23 Tour Stops

Interview – Blame It On The Books

Review – Reading in the Rain

Unique Post – YA and Wine

Review – Tine’s Reviews





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Review: The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg


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Published: 25 July 2017

Publisher: 47North

Category: Fantasy/Horror/Mystery

After discovering a room full of matryoshka dolls wearing the faces of her village, a woman learns she may be trapped inside one–but unraveling the sorcery carved into each doll unleashes dark consequences that rip her from the only home she remembers.

Rating: 5 Stars

Charlie N. Holmberg has a way of crafting magical worlds that I’ve never thought of before. While there may be some familiar elements, she bends them to her will and creates people and places and systems that weave together into a story that has me reading until the last page.

The Fifth Doll is the story of a woman, Matrona, who is living a relatively content life. She is not as respected as she’d like, being an unmarried woman at 26, but that will change with her marriage to the butcher. After a fateful decision, however, she finds herself stumbling upon a secret that encompasses her entire village and spans the past twenty years. Now, she has to work alongside Slava, the mastermind behind this magical secret, and in doing so decide whether she will comply with his wish, to become his protege, or to work out the magic and free her people.

While reading Matrona’s journey from an unsuspecting villager to the person that pulls back the curtain, I never thought for sure that I knew where things were going. There were hints as to what Slava had done, like when the villagers didn’t know what a lock was or what the word snow meant. There were things that were unexplained before the big revelation that I never expected to be answered, only to get to the end and realize that it was interwoven in Slava’s machinations from the beginning, though not by his intentional design. Simply put, there was just so much going on in The Fifth Doll that you’re swept away, just like Matrona, and while you might pick up on some of the minute details that hint at the future she’s hurtling toward, you might also be like her and miss them while trying to work out the bigger picture.

There is an interesting concept that Matrona and Slava debate toward the end of the novel that I found interesting.




Slava turned the villagers into the enchanted matryoskas in order to save them from Tsar Nikolai II. He made a decision to save them from something that he saw as a threat, all without consulting a single one of them. Matrona thought that this was wrong and even asked him why he would hide their memories of Russia if this life within the dolls was so good. She condemned him for this decision and sets about trying to set the village free from Slava’s enchantment.

From that point on, she makes the decision to break them all out, no matter the cost. At the cost of the peaceful life they had, one with no war, no hunger, perpetual summer, she was determined to get them all out. With only scant memories of her time in Russia from when she was six and returned to her when one of her dolls was opened, she makes the choice for all of them. It never occurs to her that this action is somewhat hypocritical, that she is doing exactly what she condemned Slava for. Matrona’s betrothed, Feodor, even makes the very same observation to her when they’re back in the real world. Some of the villagers may not want this. The world they’ve come back to is cold and the peasants they’ve stumbled upon are dressed poorly, housed in buildings a lot smaller than the villagers had had within the Doll World. While, yes, Matrona’s actions do mean they’re free from Slava, what harm has she actually brought to them?

We never learn how many of them are pleased with this turn of events or how many would have preferred to remain within their comfortable world. It reminded me of the ending of the Matrix series, where the humans and the Machines come to the decision that humans can disconnect if they feel they’re ready, if the truth would not be too harmful. Matrona disregarded what her fellow citizens might have thought and made a decision, one that she thought was best for all, just like Slava. In the end, she was more like him than she cared to admit.




The revelations and the consequences of not just Matrona’s actions but those of Slava and other characters in this story made for a gripping story that I had to read nearly straight through. Holmberg’s writing made a for a pleasant reading experience and her research into Russian culture included clothing and building details that I did not recognize from books I’ve read in the past. Her creation of this atmosphere got me right into the story and did not let me go until the end, where I am left both satisfied and questioning the characters. No one is perfect in this book, whatever they think about themselves, and maybe that was the point. Making the best decisions you can while not giving into self-doubt and criticism and outside forces.

I’m looking forward to her next book, because there is always the possibility that the story started here as not ended.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.