SECOND LIVES by P. D. Cacek

April 14, 2019

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Fiction Without Frontiers

A quick look at Cacek’s latest book could possibly deem it a horror story. [Especially if you like to judge a book by its cover. BookBitch.] It deals with possession by the essence of a person now dead of the body of another person in the process of passing away. Certainly one of the major themes of literature devoted to horror stories. This is very far from the reality of what is a fascinating book actually devoted to a brilliant treatment of human nature under great stress.

The beginning section covers the deaths of four people of different ages and in different years. There is a potential suffragette attending a meeting in the early part of the twentieth century and killed by a man completely opposed to the concept of women’s rights. Another is a little boy, with another a 16 year old girl. The final individual is a man dying from the effects of dementia.

The next phase of the novel involves those individuals in the process of dying that are possessed by the spirits of the first four. A doctor views the people being “resurrected” by the new life process coincidentally in the same hospital and about the same time. He indicates to the families of those expected to pass away that this situation has occurred before although not very a very common one. It is in this stage of the book that Cacek turns an interesting novel into one that becomes a fascinating study of human nature.

First, how do the previously dead persons react to finding themselves not only alive again, but in a different body than they had. Also, the reactions of the families of those expected to die when finding that their loved one is recovering, but is not the same person that had been brought to the hospital with the expectation of imminent death. And if their relationship is still the same or if previously families, if found have those rights.

The author has successfully written a powerful study of what could happen to all concerned if the postulated situation could ever happen. Human nature is of course, based on normal progression and ending of life at a certain point with no further contact with the decadent. There is no speculation of what happens normally after death as this is not germane to the described events. Very well done.

4/19 Paul Lane

SECOND LIVES by P. D. Cacek. FLAME TREE PRESS; New edition (April 11, 2019). ISBN 978-1787581593. 304p.

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SAVE ME THE PLUMS by Ruth Reichl

April 13, 2019

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My Gourmet Memoir

Ruth Reichl has led a very food-centric life and has written extensively about it. In a bit of exciting news,

“Former Gourmet editor and New York Times critic Ruth Reichl says that a memoir about her early days as a food writer [Comfort Me With Apples] is going to be the subject of a new eight-part series on Netflix.”

This book is about how Ruth came to be editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, the changes she made, and how it all went away. In case you weren’t sure if she was traumatized by the magazine’s closing, Ruth has written a novel about it, Delicious! and a cookbook, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life (and I loved both those books.) Now she has finally written the memoir that she seems to have been avoiding, and it, too, is terrific.

As a long time fan of Gourmet magazine, I was sad when it shut down. But it wasn’t my life, as it was Ruth’s, so the feelings cannot even be compared. She starts at the beginning, from her first meetings with the publisher and owner, while she was still the New York Times restaurant critic. (I loved her book about that experience, Garlic & Sapphires.) She met with friends to discuss the possible job change, and when she finally got the job offer, the money was six times what she was making at the Times, and impossible to resist. Off she went and her life changed dramatically.

This book contains a few recipes, including one for a Jeweled Chocolate Cake, which sounded great. I was curious about the possibility of turning that cake into cupcakes. I held this review for a few days and tweeted at her, but sadly, I was ignored. I will figure it out myself – necessity is the mother of invention. And I have the Google-verse at my fingertips.

If you’ve read Reichl’s other memoirs, you will undoubtedly enjoy this one. If you haven’t, it’s as good a place as any to start. For foodie fans everywhere.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SAVE ME THE PLUMS by Ruth Reichl. Random House (April 2, 2019).  ISBN 978-1400069996. 288p.

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HARD LOVING COWBOY by A. J. Pine

April 12, 2019

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Crossroads Ranch Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

This cowboy’s handsome, sexy, and definitely off limits . . .

Walker Everett spends his days at the Crossroads Ranch wrangling cattle-and steering clear of anything that would complicate his already too-complicated life. Until Violet Chastain, the ranch’s newest employee, asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for her parents’ anniversary party. She’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met and needs his help. How can he refuse?Violet isn’t about to fall for a brooding bad-boy cowboy, no matter how sizzling their chemistry. But she also never expected Walker to go along with the charade. Before long, he’s charming her parents at their weekly dinners and kissing her way more than necessary. Spending so much time together tests the limits of their “just friends” relationship, but what happens when their game of pretend becomes all too real?

Includes the bonus story Rocky Mountain Cowboy by Sara Richardson!


I read the third book in this series, Tough Luck Cowboy, which I mistook for the second book, but somehow missed the first (not unusual for me!) and the actual second book. Maybe. Apparently Amazon is as confused as I am about the order of this series! I am going to have to backtrack and find them because I know there are holes in the background that I’m missing.

So first things first, as my mother used to say, do as I say, not as I do, and read this series in order! I am investigating. Because of my little bit of confusion, I skipped reading the bonus novella but I’m sure I will get to that eventually.

The fake boyfriend is a good romance standby, and it works really well here. Violet has some serious family issues, and when Walker fakes it for her parents, too, she is really happy. Especially as she’s falling for him, despite all her reasons not to.

Walker is a good man, even if he is a cowboy. I lived in Dallas for five years in the early 80’s and rarely saw cowboys like the ones in these books. I think I mostly saw urban cowboys, thanks to the movie (John Travolta) and the TV series, “Dallas.” I lived just a few miles from Southfork and never saw them filming. I did see Susan Howard (“Donna Krebs”) in the hair salon once. But I digress.

I love this contemporary cowboy romance subgenre, and this one is pretty good. But I think it will be better once I read the other books in the series!

Crossroads Ranch Series, in order according to Amazon, sometimes:

  1. Second Chance Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 1) Feb 27, 2018
  2. Saved by the Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 2) Aug 7, 2018 (according to the author’s website, this is book 1.5 so maybe a novella?)
  3. Tough Luck Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 3) Aug 28, 2018 (according to the author’s website, this is book 2)
  4. Hard Loving Cowboy (Crossroads Ranch Book 4) Mar 26, 2019 (according to the author’s website, this is book 3)

So according to the author, I read books 2 and book 3 and there is no book 4. And I can’t borrow Saved by the Cowboy from my library so I guess I’ll just be missing that one. Sigh.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HARD LOVING COWBOY by A. J. Pine. Forever (March 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1538727119.  480p.

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THE KOREAN WOMAN by John Altman

April 11, 2019

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Altman presents an extremely well planned and written novel about a sleeper spy living in the United States on behalf of the regime of North Korea.

The stark difference in ideas and life between the two countries has never been better presented than in this book. Song Sun Young was born in North Korea. She grew up in an environment of repression, semi-starvation and with even the slightest deviation from proscribed activity, punishment by death. In spite of this, Song has tried several times to escape along with her brother to South Korea. The last attempt meets with capture, but instead of executing her the government recognizes her intelligence and initiates a program to prepare her to become a mole; i.e. a sleeper agent in the United States.

Fast forwarding from her insertion into the U.S., Song is married to an American whom she loves and two children with him that are her pride and joy. But after seven years of this happy life she is called by North Korea to start the work she was trained for. Song’s brother has been held over her head with the threat that if she does not do as required he will be killed and she has no choice but to follow orders.

Song is not aware that the CIA knows of her and follows her as she moves forward with her mission for North Korea. Working with the CIA is Dalia Artzi a retired Israeli operative that Altman has used in other novels. The reader follows the counter actions of the CIA through the thinking of Dalia while working with them.

The culmination of the novel is a crisis that may lead to very unforeseen consequences and if you haven’t slept while reading the first part, what is happening will keep your eyelids open even wider. A very well done and well plotted adventure into international politics and conflict between nations.

4/19 Paul Lane

THE KOREAN WOMAN by John Altman. Blackstone Publishing; Unabridged edition (April 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1470826970. 272p.

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THIS SCOT OF MINE by Sophie Jordan

April 10, 2019

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The Rogue Files, Book 4

From the publisher:

A daring deception…

Desperate to escape her vile fiancé, Lady Clara devises a bold lie—that she’s pregnant with another man’s child. With her reputation in tatters, Clara flees to Scotland to live out her days in disgrace, resigned to her fate as a spinster…until she claps eyes on the powerful and wickedly handsome Laird Hunt MacLarin.

She’s the answer to his curse…

Laird of an ancient clan, Hunt needs an heir, but he comes from a long line of men cursed to die before the birth of their firstborn. When the Duke of Autenberry approaches him with a proposition—marry my ruined sister—it seems the perfect solution. Even better, the defiant lass stirs him to his very soul.

No escaping the truth…

Except marriage cannot set them free. No matter how much Hunt desires her. No matter how much Clara burns for him. Soon she is falling for her husband, but is love enough to end the curse? Or is the tragic history of the MacLarin Clan doomed to repeat itself?


This silly curse.

May all future lairds of Clan MacLarin live out their days knowing they are marked to love, but not to live. Until a laird of this line lives to see his first-born draw breath, this curse shall never be broken.

Clara thinks it’s silly. Her brother thinks it’s silly. But Hunt grew up with it and he and his grandmother strongly believe. She lost her husband before her son was born, and her son before her grandson was born. Hunt was raised knowing that if he procreated, he would die. So when he meets Clara, he thinks he met the perfect woman.

Clara is the daughter and brother of a duke. But when she is ruined in London, she is sent to live with her brother in Scotland. Everyone believes her lie and assumes that she is pregnant. Hunt happily acquiesces to the Duke and is happy to marry her and raise her child as his own, thus working around the curse and hopefully living a long life. Until the morning after the wedding night when he finds out about the lie.

Feeling that he is doomed, he tries to stay away from Clara but the attraction between them is sizzling hot. So is the sex in this book, for that matter. So despite his grandmother’s dire warnings and his own feeling of dread, Hunt and Clara find a way to their happily ever after.

No spoilers here, I’ll just say I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and thoroughly enjoyed this latest entry into one of my favorite series. I don’t think they need to be read in order, but in case you want to, here you go:

1. While the duke was sleeping
2. The scandal of it all
3. The duke buys a bride

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THIS SCOT OF MINE by Sophie Jordan. Avon (March 12, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062463661. 352p.

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THE EIGHTH SISTER by Robert Dugoni

April 9, 2019

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Dugoni is a well published author with a great many novels to his credit already. He normally writes utilizing one or several characters appearing in previous novels but has done just a few standalone books. “The Eighth Sister” is one of these although it does feature some characters from other novels.

Charles Jenkins is a retired CIA employee currently living on a farm he owns in Washington State. He’s happily married with one son and another child on the way. He is not a young man, he’s in his sixties but in good shape. He’s still at an age that most people will retire. He and his wife own a security consulting business with one very large customer that is expanding internationally and representing a good steady and growing income.

Suddenly the customer begins paying slowly, indicating cash flow problems due to its rapid expansion but forcing Charles to balk on settling his own businesses debts. This naturally impedes progress since his suppliers begin slowing down the credit extended to him.

Out of the blue, his ex-supervisor comes to visit him with a proposal. Charles has not seen him since they worked together in Mexico City in the 1960s. The CIA would like to utilize a person with Charles’ capabilities, which include speaking fluent Russian as well as experience operating for the organization. A fee is negotiated with the mission being to look into a situation in which a group called the “The Seven Sisters” currently operating in Russia as spies for the U.S. are being assassinated. Jenkins is told to contact an Eighth Sister in Moscow who remains unknown and is the only person that could be of help in locating the other seven women in order to get them out of Russia.

Charles’ adventures in Russia supply the bulk of the action of the novel. Dugoni is familiar with the territory he describes as the scene of Jenkins’ search both upon arrival and when he is discovered and chased by a brilliant Russian intelligence officer through the country as well as later in Turkey.

Robert Dugoni’s handling of Jenkins as the principal character is the highlight of this novel. Again, Charles is in good condition, but in his sixties and not in the shape he was in when he worked in Mexico for the CIA. He is also worried as any husband and father would be about this job causing problems for his pregnant wife and their son as well as the developing fetus soon to be born. His thoughts, feelings and his actions reflect those of a capable individual that is not in the prime condition necessary to do what he is called upon to do but forces himself to “soldier” on.

The book is a fascinating read with conditions and backgrounds brilliantly described with the reader immersed in the book and not able to put it down until completed. Very well done.

4/19 Paul Lanes

THE EIGHTH SISTER by Robert Dugoni. Thomas & Mercer (April 9, 2019). ISBN 978-1503903036. 465p.

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THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS by Victoria James

April 8, 2019

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From the publisher:

From New York Times bestseller Victoria James comes a poignant and heartfelt romance that wraps you in a warm embrace…

Eight years ago, Tyler Donnelly left Wishing River, Montana, after a terrible fight with his father and swore he’d never return. But when his father has a stroke, guilt and duty drive him home, and nothing is as he remembers––from the run-down ranch to Lainey Sullivan, who is all grown up now. And darn if he can’t seem to stay away.

Lainey’s late grandma left her two things: the family diner and a deep-seated mistrust of cowboys. So when Tyler quietly rides back into town looking better than hot apple pie, she knows she’s in trouble. But she owes his dad everything, and she’s determined to show Ty what it means to be part of a small town…and part of a family.

Lainey’s courage pushes Ty to want to make Wishing River into a home again―together. But one of them is harboring a secret that could change everything.


This was the first book I read by this author, and it was pretty good. It is a sweet romance, centered around family dynamics and has just enough drama to keep the pages turning. The characters are well developed, even the secondary ones, and I liked getting to know them all and the small town that is pretty much another character in this story. There is a bit of mystery surrounding the family feud between Ty and his dad which makes sense as it unfolds.

Lainey’s keeping a secret from Ty. This is a common trope in romances, and not my favorite. She knows she should tell him yet there never seems to be a good time until it blows up. I guess I’m too blunt in my own life to truly understand why people do this. You’re in a relationship, be honest or get out. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

That is a minor quibble though. The story moves along nicely, and it is always good to end a book with a smile. I love the happily ever after found here.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS by Victoria James. Entangled: Amara (March 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1640635418.  320p.

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THREE LITTLE WORDS by Jenny Holiday

April 7, 2019

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Bridesmaids Behaving Badly, Book 3

From the publisher:

From the USA Today bestselling author who is a “master of witty banter” (Entertainment Weekly) comes a hilarious road trip romance that proves opposites don’t just attract, they ignite.
Gia Gallo is officially in bridesmaid hell. Stranded in New York with her best friend’s wedding dress, Gia has six days to make it to Florida in time for the ceremony. And oh-so-charming best man Bennett Buchanan has taken the last available rental car. Looks like she’s in for one long road trip with the sexiest – and most irritating – Southern gentleman she’s ever met…
Bennett’s pretty sure that if there was ever a woman to break his “no flings” rule, Gia would be it. Sure, she’s stubborn. She’s also funny, smart, and the attraction between them is getting hotter with every state line they cross. While Bennett doesn’t do casual, Gia doesn’t do “relationships.” But if they break the rules, this unlikely pair might discover that their impromptu road trip could turn out to be the best ride of their lives.

This laugh-out-loud book was my antidote to the news this week. I wanted fun. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to get lost in someone else’s life and not have to think about what is going on in this country. This book checked off all the boxes for me. It’s the third book of a terrific series, and I’ve enjoyed all of them so far. Since the stories revolve around four best friends, I’m guessing there is one more book to follow. There are also a couple of novellas tucked into this series, but I haven’t found them yet.

Gia has appeared in the first couple of books and I felt like I got to know her a little bit from those so I think this is a series that is best read in order. Gia is a model, so it can be easy to hate her <cough>. But Holiday doesn’t let us fall into that trap. Instead, she takes someone who definitely has a bad side and turns her into someone we can root for.

Bennett is something of an anomaly of a man, but as we get to know him it starts to make sense. Again, Holiday steers this ship and keeps it upright, dodging big waves and ultimately taking us to the happily ever after – which is why I picked up this book.

Another fast, fun read in a sexy series. I really enjoyed this escape.

04/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THREE LITTLE WORDS by Jenny Holiday. Forever (January 29, 2019).  ISBN 978-1455542468.  368p.

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DIARY OF A DEAD MAN ON LEAVE by David Downing

April 6, 2019

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Downing has made his literary reputation with novels mainly set in Europe during the period of World War I and approximately to the second world war. His knowledge of actual events and circumstances is prodigious gained obviously through very painstaking research. The current book is no exception and is set in the Germany of the late 1930s during the period when Hitler was consolidating power over his people.

Josef Hoffman is a man that was born in the German city of Hamm and was old enough to serve in the first world war fighting for Germany. After the war was over he left his country living in Latin America and becoming an agent for the Soviet Communist party. His job was to organize sympathizers of the Communist doctrine into groups working to instill their beliefs into the general population of their country.

When Josef arrived in Hamm he took a room in a boarding house owned by a woman with two sons living with her. Josef’s work is described with vivid details of the events surrounding his efforts as well as bringing to life residents of the boarding house. Hitler has put unworkable ideas into practice and it is becoming evident that the only way he can pull Germany out of the morass it is in is with a major war. At the same time Hitler has selected scapegoats to blame economic conditions on: the main ones are the Jews living in Germany as well as in countries that are subjects of the projected war. Josef is writing a diary delineating the events of the time that he is working in Germany. He voices the opinions that the horrors inflicted by Hitler’s Nazi party go beyond anything that is civilized and humane.

Reading this book takes the reader completely into a world that is alien to those hearing about it today. It is a fascinating read; one that brings up a picture of a world turned on it’s axis and showing a side of human beings that have found they need to accept the unthinkable if they are to survive the new world that has evolved around them. A Gestapo has been formed with the function of arresting and punishing anyone that is against the regime. Anyone can cause someone to be arrested by merely denouncing them. People are guilty as charged with almost no way to prove that their arrest was without grounds.

This is a novel that does deserve attention not only for a fascinating story but as a warning that if people don’t watch their governments those entities can evolve into repressive horrors. A very powerful read and of course, one that will cause sleeplessness until the book is finished.

4/19 Paul Lanes

DIARY OF A DEAD MAN ON LEAVE by David Downing. Soho Crime (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1616958435. 312p.

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THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean

April 5, 2019

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From the publisher:

A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

WASHINGTON POST TOP 10 BOOK OF THE YEAR A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER and NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018

“A constant pleasure to read…Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book.” —The Washington Post

“CAPTIVATING…DELIGHTFUL.” —Christian Science Monitor * “EXQUISITELY WRITTEN, CONSISTENTLY ENTERTAINING.” —The New York Times * “MESMERIZING…RIVETING.” —Booklist (starred review)

A dazzling love letter to a beloved institution—and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries—from the bestselling author hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post.

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.


This is a book beloved by librarians, to no one’s great surprise. On the other hand, I didn’t love it. Yes, it is an interesting story but I was not a fan of the writing. The book jumps all over the place, not moving back in forth in time but back, forth, sideways, back, forward, back, sideways, etc. It was dizzying at time. Why am I reading about this library director, I read about her several chapters ago. Now here is more info on another library director. I found it hard to get into this book and if my book group hadn’t picked it, forcing me to finish it, it would have been in my did-not-finish-and-certainly-not-reviewed pile. Yet here I am.

I started this book a few months before it came out. I put it down and picked it up several times, usually after reading a good review somewhere. But honestly, I don’t think a book written about librarians and libraries is ever going to get a bad review, at least not from the librarians who review for the journals like Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. On the other hand, I don’t have any restrictions.

It wasn’t a horrible book; the story was interesting, at least from what I could piece together. I read it over many months so I admit to forgetting some stuff as I went along. But I didn’t care enough to go back and reread any of it. I love libraries and usually like reading about them. I missed the story about this fire to begin with, as did most people as it happened the same day as Chernobyl, which pretty much guaranteed it would be a non-story. What Orlean does is take the story of the fire and interweave it with the history of the library, going back a few hundred years. But it was just too jumpy for me, I would have preferred a chronological telling leading up to the fire and beyond. I didn’t get that. For what it’s worth, I didn’t care for Orlean’s bestselling The Orchid Thief, either, and never finished reading it. And that book was also beloved and was even made into a very strange movie called Adaptation.

4/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean. Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 16, 2018). ISBN 978-1476740188. 336p.

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