Monthly TBRs

March Madness: Upcoming Reads

As March draws closer, I wonder to myself “where the hell did February go?!” I guess I can’t complain too much since this means that we are one step closer to spring.  The older I get, the harder winters in Ohio are becoming.  Yesterday was actually a beautiful, 60 degree, and sunny day, which is uncommon for Ohio in February.  I took advantage of the nice weather, and took the kids outside to play while I enjoyed a good book in the sunshine.

10390150_1141512002526229_7905620031185482088_n

 

Speaking of March, I have big plans for this month.  I have 6 books on the lineup…

 41VTPDCAq5L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

Click here to purchase Red Queen

 Book Synopsis for Red Queen (via amazon.com)

The #1 New York Times Bestseller

Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king’s palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard–a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

I am interested to see what the hype is all about with this book.  I don’t typically read YA or fantasy, but am curious to see if this ends up being another Twilight craze…


51eVdLPcBWL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Click here to purchase Rebel Queen

Book Synopsis for Rebel Queen (via amazon.com)

From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter comes the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi—India’s Joan of Arc—who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.

When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.

Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves.

Told from the unexpected perspective of Sita—Queen Lakshmi’s most favored companion and most trusted soldier in the all-female army—Rebel Queen shines a light on a time and place rarely explored in historical fiction. In the tradition of her bestselling novel, Nefertiti, and through her strong, independent heroines fighting to make their way in a male dominated world, Michelle Moran brings nineteenth-century India to rich, vibrant life.

I really hope this book will live up to my expectations.  A queen who raises an army of women AND rides into battle alongside them?  Yes, please!


51OiUODZdPL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

Click here to purchase The Queen of the Night

Book Synopsis for The Queen of the Night (via amazon.com)

Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. 

As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.  

Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation — or destroy her with the secrets it reveals. 
For one of my Goodreads book clubs, the March theme was “Making Music: Music and Musicians.”  I had come across this book on Goodreads and it intrigued me, so I nominated it as our March read.  Much to my surprise, it actually won in the group poll.  It is 576 pages, so hopefully it won’t end up being a flop… if so I may have a few hundred group members out for blood for wasting their time 🙂

61oTqu9bHJL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Synopsis for Dollbaby (via amazon.com)

A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans—a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets

When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throw

s in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.

For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.

For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The Help, Dollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time.

By turns uplifting and funny, poignant and full of verve, Dollbaby is a novel readers will take to their hearts.

I have heard good things about this book, so when a Goodreads partner for a March buddy read suggested it, I was game.

51YDxGoEdzL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

Book Synopsis for Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History (via amazon.com)

The heist of the century!

Ten years before the recent Brussels diamond theft, daring diamond thieves made off with gems worth almost twice as much. On February 15, 2003, thieves broke into an allegedly airtight vault in Antwerp, never tripping an alarm, and made off with over $108 million worth of diamonds and other valuables.

Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in on a band of professional thieves fronted by Leonardo Notarbartolo, a dapper Italian who had rented an office in the Diamond Center and clandestinely cased its vault for over two years.  The “who” of the crime had been answered, but the “how” remained a mystery.

Scott Andrew Selby, a Harvard Law grad and diamond expert, and Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds, embarked on a global chase to uncover the true story behind the stunning heist. Tracking the threads of the crime throughout Europe—from Belgium to Italy, in seedy cafés and sleek diamond offices—the authors sorted through an array of conflicting details, divergent opinions and incongruous theories to put together the puzzle of what actually happened that Valentine’s Day weekend.

This real-life Ocean’s Eleven—a combination of diamond history, journalistic reportage, and riveting true-crime story—provides a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.

When my sister-in-law asked if I wanted to join her friend’s book club with her, I said “Absolutely!”  I have always wanted to be a part of a book club!  Sure, I belong to online book clubs via Goodreads, but it’s not the same.  When she told me this was the March read, my heart sank.  This book is WAY outside my comfort zone.  I never read non-fiction…. like ever.  I am going to have an open mind, and hope that my first official book club book will not bore me to tears…

What is on your to-read list for March?  Comment with your upcoming reads!

Book Events

Orphan Train Meet the Author Event – Christina Baker Kline

 

 

Orphan Train

Link to purchase this book

Book Details (via amazon.com)

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; F First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061950726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061950728

Book Synopsis (via amazon.com)

Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train is an unforgettable story of friendship and second chances that highlights a little-known but historically significant movement in America’s past—and it includes a special PS section for book clubs featuring insights, interviews, and more.

Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse…

As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

 

 

I first came across Orphan Train while scrolling through recommendations on Goodreads.  The cover immediately caught my eye.  I will admit that the cover is often a deciding factor in whether or not I read the book description.  After seeing this beautiful cover pop out at me, I did not hesitate to scroll down and read the book description.  This book seemed right up my alley, so I added it to my lengthy to-read list.  Not even a month later, I stumbled upon a Facebook event from my local library that Christina Baker Kline, the author of Orphan Train, would be making an appearance at my local Books&Co on February 24th, just two short weeks away!

meetauthor

For the past few years our local library district has participated in an annual celebration of reading called “The Big Read.”  Basically, a book is chosen, then everyone is encouraged to read the selected book and participate in group discussions held at various local library branches.  Essentially this is a community wide book club.

orphan-trainheader.png

Click here to learn more about the Miami Valley Big Read.  Group discussions will be held March 6-April 16 at participating library branches in the Miami Valley area.

This would be my first “Meet the Author” event, so I anxiously awaited the two weeks until February 24th.  My friend, Nicole, had expressed interest in going to the event with me, but unfortunately she was unable to secure a babysitter.  I decided it would be good for me to fly solo.  I am a adult after all, it was time to pull on my big girl pants.  I was determined to be one of those people who felt secure enough in themselves to go to a event alone.  I must admit, I was feeling pretty intimidated since I had never been to one of these types of events before.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had chosen to hold off on buying the book so that I could purchase a copy at the event and have the author sign it.  I was a little nervous about going to a Meet the Author event without reading the book, however I was too cheap to purchase 2 copies of the book.  What if the author asks me if I enjoyed her book?  Do I lie and say I read it?  What if the author starts discussing the book and gives away spoilers?  As it turned out,  I was not the only one at the event who had not yet read the book, nor was it uncommon to attend a meet the author even without reading the book.

I arrived 40 minutes prior to the event start time, which turned out to have been a good decision because seats were already filling up at that point.  By the time the event started, a number of people were forced to stand along the back.  Once the author arrived, which I might add was 10 minutes early, she announced that she would sign some books before she began her presentation in order to allow people to take off after her presentation.   We had been given numbers as we had come in to the store, so she called numbers 1-30.  I happened to hold #25, so I lined up and eagerly awaited my turn to meet Christina.  What I liked the most about Christina, was that she seemed so down to earth.   You know those people who you meet and instantly like?  Those people who can light up a room?  Christina Baker Kline is one of those people.

1909672_10101644301813176_7907048529637066261_n12524114_10101644301833136_2160416782011698263_n12742052_10101644302022756_8680603867939114234_n

After the first 30 people had made it through the line, it was time to get started.  During her introduction, we learned that Christina had been in Cleveland earlier in the day.  She had been scheduled to take a early flight from Cleveland to Dayton, but it had been canceled.  She was forced to rent a car, and drive the 3.5 hour trip to Dayton.  When Christina took the podium, she opened with the story of her trip to Dayton.  Apparently, she was scheduled for an interview in Dayton earlier that day before the event.  She had assumed that it was going to be a radio interview, so she opted to be comfy and wore her pajamas on the 3.5 hour drive down.  Much to her dismay, she arrived here in Dayton to find out that the interview was not a radio interview, but a TV interview in which she was obviously not prepared for.  She laughed it off and said it was an “interesting” interview for sure.

Much to my delight, Christina’s presentation was more about the history of the orphan trains, and how she had become so interested in this part of history.  The orphan trains were trains that relocated orphaned and homeless children from the grossly over populated east coast cities to the rural areas of the Midwest.  Experts believe that from the 1850s to the late 1920s, there were upwards of 250,000 children transported by these trains.  During this time, the east coast was in a state of turmoil.  The poverty rate was sky high and the amount of homeless children living in the streets was overwhelming.  Crime was at an all time high.  A man by the name of Charles Loring Brace had came up with an idea to get these kids off the city streets and into the country.  In his mind, this was the solution to the crime problems but also this would help Midwest pioneers develop and settle the west.  This was to be a labor program where the kids would serve as indentured laborers with the hopes that families would foster these kids with the intention of eventually adopting them.  Unfortunately, this is not what happened in the majority of these cases.  The children were stripped of their identities and any possessions, and put on these trains to their new fate.  Once they reached their destinations, the children would line up to be chosen by their new guardians.  The most desirable kids were able-bodied boys aged 9-14.  These boys would be forced into hard physical labor.  Many took the place of the slaves that had been outlawed during the civil war.  Girls were slotted into more domestic roles as house servants.  Many were mistreated and unfortunately, many were not adopted into their new “families” like Brace had envisioned.  Finally in the early 1930s the United States passed laws protecting those in poverty and developed the foster care system..

It was evident that Christina had undergone extensive research on this subject, but what sparked that interest?  Christina shared that once, many years ago, her family was visiting her husband’s family over the holiday when a blizzard hit.  As the days passed, and her kids growing more and more restless, her mother-in-law pulled a book off the shelf.  The book was a history of the family hometown in North Dakota.  In this book was a article article about Orphan trains featuring her mother-in-law’s own father and siblings.  After some research, it turned out that they were not in fact orphan train riders, but from that point on Christina was hooked and learned everything she could about orphan trains.

Christina knew she wanted to write a book about orphan trains, but she admitted that she was intimidated by it.  She wanted her book to be as historically accurate as possible, so she worked many years researching, learning, and even interviewing to prepare.  During her research, Christina learned that there were orphan train reunions where actual riders of orphan trains would meet and talk about their experiences.  Christina attended a few of these reunions, and was able to interview 7 people who had actually ridden on an orphan train.  She said many of the riders described similar feelings of not belonging and shame.  One woman in particular, Pat, mentioned to Christina that she felt like she missed out on not being raised by her own family, and went on to say that she never felt complete.

During Christina’s presentation, she showed us many pictures that she used as inspiration for Orphan Train.  Christina created a “inspiration board” while she was writing the book.  It was full of pictures, quotes, poems, etc.  She used this board to help capture the emotion of what it must have been like to be a orphan train rider.  I was struck at how devastating the children looked in the pictures.  They almost had an eerie feeling about them.  Some of the children she showed us were of similar ages to my own children, aged 2 and 9, which obviously stirred up an emotional response from me.   She also went on to talk about the current cover and showed us a few of the previous covers of Orphan Train.  She said she really struggled with the cover for this book, and did not like any of the previous covers, but is in love with the current cover (who isn’t?).

After a short Q&A session, the event drew to a close.  If all meet the author events were like what I had just experienced, I had really been missing out.  I learned so much in such a short time frame.  I was practically sprinting to my car in order to get home to begin my own journey with Orphan Train.   I look forward to finishing the book, and sharing my thoughts in the very near future.

Have you ever been to a book signing and/or meet the author event?  If so, what was your experience?

About the Author

ChristinaBakerKline.png

Christina Baker Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is the author of five novels: Orphan Train, Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water. She is co-editor, with Anne Burt, of About Face: Women Write about What They See When They Look in the Mirror and co-author, with Christina L. Baker, of The Conversation Begins: Mothers and Daughters Talk about Living Feminism. She has edited three other anthologies: Child of Mine, Room to Grow, and Always Too Soon. Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University from 2007 to 2011, Kline has also taught literature and creative writing at Yale, NYU, UVA, and Drew University. A graduate of Yale, Cambridge University, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing, Kline is a recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship and several research fellowships, and has been a Writer-in-Residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Kline lives with husband and three sons in Montclair, New Jersey. She is at work on another novel and an anthology.

Link to the Author’s Website

Link to the Author’s Facebook Page