Category: 5 out of 5 stars

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake Review

Title: The Guest Book

Author: Sarah Blake

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I received an advanced readers’ copy of this book from the publisher, Flatiron Books. Thank you so much!

               I received The Guest book in the mail a few months ago, and since I’ve been alternating between library books and ARCs, I recently made the decision to sort them by month so I could make my reviews line up as the books were officially published. As soon as I was finished with a comic book I’d borrowed from the library, I started The Guest Book. At first, I wasn’t sure about it; I’d never read any of Sarah Blake’s work before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It took me a bit to get into the book, but once I did, I was spellbound. The Guest Book is one of the most anticipated books of 2019, and I can see why it has so much hype. A family saga reminiscent of Downton Abbey, only American. I absolutely adored The Guest Book, and it has become one of my favorite novels of the year. I feel so lucky to have received an early copy. Rich, dynamic, and thoughtful, The Guest Book takes a harsh, unflinching look at American culture, its oppression of marginalized peoples, but especially Jews and black people. This book should be required reading for all.

               The Guest Book goes back and forth in time, between different members of the affluent Milton family. But the main focus is on one of the granddaughters of Kitty and Ogden Milton, Evelyn. A historian with a passion for piecing together the past, she is brought to an emotional crossroads when an offer for the island her grandparents bought comes to light. Haunted by the secrets lurking just beneath the shiny veneer of her family’s past, she is determined to uncover the truth. Even if shatters what remains of her family…

               This book was a surprising gem! It really snuck up on me and gripped me by the throat, long after I’d closed it. It took me a little bit to get into it, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little worried I wouldn’t enjoy it. But once I got into it, I was spellbound. The prose was both spare and gorgeous, and I loved the way that the point of view jumped between each member of the family, as well as Len Levy and Reg Pauling, a Jew and a black man invited to Crockett Island for the summer. I also really enjoyed the way the book went back and forth between the past and the present; it provided a much deeper scope on the characters and events that were happening. But my favorite thing about The Guest Book was its timeliness: it took a good, hard and unflinching look at the American cultural system, and how white people, especially the rich, have contributed to the oppression of other people, especially black people and the Jews. Len and Reg made a compelling, painful foil to the Miltons, who are so blinded by their own privilege that Kitty, its matriarch, issues a refusal that haunts her until her dying day. Evelyn has always loved Crockett Island, and treasures the memories of her summers she spent there as a girl. When her family begins to look into selling it, she bucks against it at first, not wanting to lose such a valuable piece of her family’s legacy. But she starts to dig deep into the secrets her family has long kept hidden, and finds that her family’s wealth comes from an association with an awful organization. (I won’t say what, because I don’t want to spoil the book for people who haven’t yet read it.) I loved that Evie was a historian, and how she dug deep into what her family’s secrets were, even as it upended everything, she thought she knew. I loved the way it ended; it was bittersweet and very real to life. I will never forget the Milton family, Reg, Len, or Evie; these characters will forever have a place in my heart. Sarah Blake has penned a masterful sophomore novel, full of heart and social commentary in equal measure, and I will never forget it! The bottom line: Beautiful, rich, hard-hitting and thought-provoking, I loved The Guest Book! It was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait for more from Sarah Blake! Next on deck: Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-guest-book-by-sarah-blake-review.html

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson Review

Title: The Vanishing Stair

Author: Maureen Johnson

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Series: Truly Devious, book two

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Truly, Devious was one of my favorite books of last year, so I was so excited when the sequel finally dropped back in January. I had to return it to the library the first time I checked it out, as I couldn’t read it before it had to go back. It’s been sitting on the top of my stack for a while, and I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, so as soon as I was done with Saving Meghan, I pushed it to the top of my stack. I devoured it in less than two days, and even though I finished it last night, my head is still spinning! Maureen, how could you end it like that?! How am I supposed to wait until 2020 for the last book in the trilogy?! Smart, shocking, and chilling, The Vanishing Stair was a fantastic sequel, and I can’t wait for the next book! A great sequel to one of my favorite books of last year!

               The Vanishing Stair picks up where Truly, Devious left off, with Stevie still reeling from the events of the last book. For the sake of those who haven’t read it yet, I won’t say too much about the plot; I don’t want to spoil it. But Stevie returns to Ellingham, trying to refocus on the famous case that brought her to the school to begin with. Unable to leave well enough alone, she begins to investigate the deaths that caused her to leave. But it turns out that the deeper she digs, the more she realizes that nothing stays truly stay buried, forever…

               The Vanishing Stair was absolutely wonderful! Truly, Devious was one of my favorite books of last year, and I’m so happy that I finally got the read the sequel! I really enjoyed it. Sequels made me so nervous; all too often, they don’t live up to my expectations. But The Vanishing Stair more than delivered; I almost enjoyed it more than the first book. The pacing was breakneck, and it took me a little while to remember what was going on, since it’s been more than a year since I read Truly, Devious. I loved the way that Johnson braided two mysteries together; I was constantly left wondering and scratching my head. I was also screaming, laughing and crying; this book gave me so many feels! The transition between the past and present were really smooth. I also adored the characters, but Stevie and Janelle were my favorites. The twists and turns of the book had me dealing with literary whiplash, and more than once I had to walk away so I could puzzle them out. And that ending! That ending! Oh, my goodness, how on Earth am I supposed to wait until 2020 for the next book?! Come on, Maureen, you’re killing me here! I loved this book, but the ending was what really clinched it for me; I can’t wait for the last book in the series! Absolutely amazing! The bottom line: Dark, twisty, and thrilling, I loved The Vanishing Stair, and I can’t wait for the last book in the series! Next on deck: Cape May by Chip Creek!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-vanishing-stair-by-maureen-johnson.html

Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer Review

Title: Saving Meghan

Author: D.J. Palmer

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I was given an advanced readers’ copy of this book from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press. Thank you so much for the book!

               I started alternating between library books and advanced readers’ copies, and once I finished Bad Blood, I decided to read Saving Meghan. (I’d read two library books in a row, so I wanted to read two ARCs as well.) I’ve had it on my rapidly growing stack for about two months now, and I decided, why not give it a shot? I was still in a dark, thriller-type mood after I finished Bad Blood, so I decided to go for it. Normally, thrillers and mysteries as a genre make me anxious. Either I can guess what’s going to happen within the first hundred pages, or I’m completely blown away; there’s no in-between for me. But I’m quite happy to report that D.J. Palmer has penned a fantastic, dynamic mystery, complete with thrills, chills, twists, and so much heart. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I did, I was glued to the pages! Twisted, creepy, unpredictable and shocking, I loved Saving Meghan, and I cannot wait for what he’s got up his sleeve next! This book is one of my favorites of 2019.

               Meghan Gerard is a very sick young woman. So sick, in fact, that people are pointing the finger at her fiercely protective and devoted mother, Becky. There are whispers that Becky has Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy; in layman’s terms, she’s purposely making her teenage daughter ill for attention. But could it be that Meghan is making herself sick? Or her father, Carl? Tensions begin to mount as suspicion clouds the entire family. Who is lying? Meghan? Carl? Becky? Her doctor, Zach Fisher? Or something else entirely? Is this a desperate child’s bid for attention? Or something much more sinister and frightening?

               This book was incredible! Saving Meghan kind of reminded me of Jodi Picoult’s works: thriller and mystery with a lot of medical jargon thrown in. It took me a little bit to get into the story, as the viewpoints were constantly shifting between Becky, Meghan, and Dr. Fisher, but once I did, I was glued to the pages! The medical jargon was kind of confusing at first; I kept having to go back and reread parts of the dialogue to make sure I was understanding what I was reading. I was spellbound, and for the life of me, I could not figure out who put this sick, twisted set of events into motion; I think that’s half the reason I loved the book so much. But even more than the mystery, the characters were particularly compelling; I loved them all, even in all of their ugliness. But my favorites of them all were Meghan, Becky, and Dr. Zach Fisher, who is determined to help figure out what’s wrong with Meghan. The pacing was breakneck, the prose taut and snappy, and that ending—I didn’t see it coming! It was absolutely amazing. Definitely one of the better mysteries I’ve read this year. One thing’s for sure: I’ve got D.J. Palmer on my radar, and I can’t wait to see what sick, twisted thriller he’s got up his sleeve next! The bottom line: Compelling, sick, twisted and shocking, I loved Saving Meghan! One of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson!

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou Review

Title: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Author: John Carreyrou

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Nonfiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I won this book and another in a contest on Instagram and reviewed it. Thank you so much, Alfred A. Knopf Books!

               I saw a giveaway on Instagram and threw my name in the ring, not expecting to win it. It’s been sitting on my ever-growing ARC stack, and once I decided to start alternating between them and library books, I chose Bad Blood as my next choice. Normally, I’m really picky about nonfiction; I find it rather dry. But I decided to take the plunge in this brutal, thought-provoking expose, and I wasn’t disappointed. Theranos, one of the most infamous Silicon Valley startups, is the topic of Bad Blood, and it carries all of the elements of a great story: a quick rise, a young woman in a profession dominated by men, emulating mystery and Steve Jobs, a deep voice and a dream perhaps too noble to be made real. I loved every moment of it; I’d heard of the scandal when it happened but didn’t take a deep look into what caused it. John Carreyrou, an investigative journalist with The Wall Street Journal, pulls back the curtain and exposes every sordid secret, from the beginning to the end. I’m in awe. It was informative, hard-hitting, thought-provoking and shocking. It was scandalous and surprising and one of the best works of nonfiction I’ve ever read, period.

              Theranos had every chance to be successful, and for a while, it was. Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout who is driven, articulate, and determined to become the next Steve Jobs. She proposed something that would completely revolutionize the health care industry: a device that could take a variety of blood tests in a fraction of the time that traditional machines could. Soon health care providers like Walgreens were taking an interest in the young innovator’s mysterious technology. There was only one problem: the technology did not work. Decidedly in denial, Holmes was trying to get her technology put in stores and even used in the United States military. Backed into a corner and desperate to hold on to her newfound success, fame, and celebrity, Holmes’s rise and fall, and the subsequent crumbling of her company are documented in this investigative book. The pacing was breakneck and I really enjoyed the tone; it was factual but not so dry that I wasn’t interested. I also enjoyed the format and the way that things were presented. This kind of book, I have a feeling that there was a lot I didn’t pick up on. I’ll have to read it again, this time with a thorough look at the notes. Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed it. I feel like I really know the issue now, and the book; I was just in awe, and shock. Here was this wildly successful, smart and innovative young woman, but she’d messed up by overshooting and overpromising, and so, she failed. It shocked me, saddened me, made me think. It certainly made me look at nonfiction in a completely different way (and that’s a good thing). I’m definitely more open to it as a whole now. I can’t wait to read the other book that came with it! Thank you again to the publisher! The bottom line: Informative, shocking, and in-depth, I loved Bad Blood! Definitely one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read! Next on deck: Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/04/bad-blood-by-john-carreyrou-review.html

The Secrets of Clouds by Alyson Richman Review

Title: The Secrets of Clouds

Author: Alyson Richman

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I was at the library a few days ago, and The Secret of Clouds caught my eye, sitting on a display next to the checkout desk. The cover was colorful and intriguing, and I was curious about the title. I just finished it last night and I was blown away. This is the first book I’ve read by Richman, and it certainly won’t be the last! Compassionate, tender, and full of heart, I loved The Secrets of Clouds and I will never forget it! The end of the book had me bawling like a baby but in a good way. I was blown away by this novel.

               Katya, a gifted ballerina and her star on the rise, falls in love with Sasha, a passionate and gifted scientist, in Kiev. When tragedy strikes, the young couple emigrates to the United States. They are overjoyed when they discover that they are expecting. Years later, their son Yuri is born with a delicate heart condition. A gifted and compassionate teacher, Maggie, begins to tutor him in language arts. From this bond a friendship is formed. The boy’s insatiable curiosity and unique wisdom light a fire in Maggie, despite being associated with painful childhood memories for her. But when horror strikes the family and Maggie all over again, she must decide to sink into despair or live a full, bright life full of joy and pain.

               This book was a sucker-punch; it bowled me over and blew me away. I was swept away from the first line, absolutely enchanted. The prose was beautiful and rich, and the pacing between Katya and Sasha and Maggie’s journeys flowed smoothly. I adored Maggie and her loving, quirky family, and I also really liked Katya, Sasha, and their tenacious, intelligent son, Yuri. I loved everything about this book, and I read it in all of two days. Even when I wasn’t reading, I was constantly itching to go back to it. And that ending! It totally gutted me in the best kind of way. Even having seen it coming, it still hit me hard, and I dissolved into bittersweet tears. Full of heart, compassion, and tenderness, I loved this book; it was like a balm to my soul. Alyson Richman has become one of my new favorite authors with The Secret of Clouds! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Beautiful, tender, compassionate and heartfelt, I loved The Secret of Clouds! Next on deck: Wrecked by Maria Padian!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/04/the-secret-of-clouds-by-alyson-richman.html

The Secrets of Clouds by Alyson Richman Review

Title: The Secrets of Clouds

Author: Alyson Richman

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I was at the library a few days ago, and The Secret of Clouds caught my eye, sitting on a display next to the checkout desk. The cover was colorful and intriguing, and I was curious about the title. I just finished it last night and I was blown away. This is the first book I’ve read by Richman, and it certainly won’t be the last! Compassionate, tender, and full of heart, I loved The Secrets of Clouds and I will never forget it! The end of the book had me bawling like a baby but in a good way. I was blown away by this novel.

               Katya, a gifted ballerina and her star on the rise, falls in love with Sasha, a passionate and gifted scientist, in Kiev. When tragedy strikes, the young couple emigrates to the United States. They are overjoyed when they discover that they are expecting. Years later, their son Yuri is born with a delicate heart condition. A gifted and compassionate teacher, Maggie, begins to tutor him in language arts. From this bond a friendship is formed. The boy’s insatiable curiosity and unique wisdom light a fire in Maggie, despite being associated with painful childhood memories for her. But when horror strikes the family and Maggie all over again, she must decide to sink into despair or live a full, bright life full of joy and pain.

               This book was a sucker-punch; it bowled me over and blew me away. I was swept away from the first line, absolutely enchanted. The prose was beautiful and rich, and the pacing between Katya and Sasha and Maggie’s journeys flowed smoothly. I adored Maggie and her loving, quirky family, and I also really liked Katya, Sasha, and their tenacious, intelligent son, Yuri. I loved everything about this book, and I read it in all of two days. Even when I wasn’t reading, I was constantly itching to go back to it. And that ending! It totally gutted me in the best kind of way. Even having seen it coming, it still hit me hard, and I dissolved into bittersweet tears. Full of heart, compassion, and tenderness, I loved this book; it was like a balm to my soul. Alyson Richman has become one of my new favorite authors with The Secret of Clouds! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Beautiful, tender, compassionate and heartfelt, I loved The Secret of Clouds! Next on deck: Wrecked by Maria Padian!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/04/the-secret-of-clouds-by-alyson-richman.html

Circe by Madeline Miller Review

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I bought a copy of this book and reviewed it.

               I’ve had this book for a while; I bought it on Amazon for less than four dollars. I don’t know if it was a clerical error or what, but I bought it. I’ve been cycling through advance readers’ copies and library books recently, and I decided to read Circe. I’d read The Song of Achilles, Miller’s debut novel, and loved it, so I was really excited about this new perspective of a minor goddess turned villainess. It didn’t disappoint. I’ve always thought that beings like The Gorgons and Medusa got a bad rap, so this book was really refreshing! The prose was gorgeous, there was an index of characters in the back of the book (bonus!), and it felt like I was really there, in the myths and histories that Miller so vividly described. Madeline Miller has established herself as one of my favorite authors with Circe.

               If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, chances are high that you know who Circe is. Shapeshifter, seductress, powerful witch and legendary schemer. But Miller gives us a front-row seat to some of the oldest tales in the Greek pantheon, with Circe being the daughter of a social-climbing nymph and her father the god of the sun, Helios. I loved this book; I felt as if Circe herself was sitting across from me, setting the record straight for me. I also really liked that this book has an index; with all of the gods, nymphs, demigods, and humans, it was absolutely essential. I knew the majority of the characters, but some I hadn’t yet heard of. I felt like Circe was a familiar friend to me. I also enjoyed the large cast that surrounded Circe, particularly at the beginning of the book. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately transfixed. Oh, my goodness, that ending! It was so bittersweet for me. But I have to say that I enjoyed every moment, and I’m so very happy that I bought it for my own collection. Madeline Miller is an immense, complex talent that I absolutely adore, and I will probably read everything in her body of work. I’m in awe of her talent and sheer power with words. The bottom line: Raw, gorgeous, searing and thought-provoking, I loved Circe; it is one of my favorite books I’ve read in 2019! An absolute epic worthy of Homer himself, Circe has won my heart and I will never forget her. Next on deck: The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/04/circe-by-madeline-miller-review.html

Circe by Madeline Miller Review

Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I bought a copy of this book and reviewed it.

               I’ve had this book for a while; I bought it on Amazon for less than four dollars. I don’t know if it was a clerical error or what, but I bought it. I’ve been cycling through advance readers’ copies and library books recently, and I decided to read Circe. I’d read The Song of Achilles, Miller’s debut novel, and loved it, so I was really excited about this new perspective of a minor goddess turned villainess. It didn’t disappoint. I’ve always thought that beings like The Gorgons and Medusa got a bad rap, so this book was really refreshing! The prose was gorgeous, there was an index of characters in the back of the book (bonus!), and it felt like I was really there, in the myths and histories that Miller so vividly described. Madeline Miller has established herself as one of my favorite authors with Circe.

               If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, chances are high that you know who Circe is. Shapeshifter, seductress, powerful witch and legendary schemer. But Miller gives us a front-row seat to some of the oldest tales in the Greek pantheon, with Circe being the daughter of a social-climbing nymph and her father the god of the sun, Helios. I loved this book; I felt as if Circe herself was sitting across from me, setting the record straight for me. I also really liked that this book has an index; with all of the gods, nymphs, demigods, and humans, it was absolutely essential. I knew the majority of the characters, but some I hadn’t yet heard of. I felt like Circe was a familiar friend to me. I also enjoyed the large cast that surrounded Circe, particularly at the beginning of the book. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately transfixed. Oh, my goodness, that ending! It was so bittersweet for me. But I have to say that I enjoyed every moment, and I’m so very happy that I bought it for my own collection. Madeline Miller is an immense, complex talent that I absolutely adore, and I will probably read everything in her body of work. I’m in awe of her talent and sheer power with words. The bottom line: Raw, gorgeous, searing and thought-provoking, I loved Circe; it is one of my favorite books I’ve read in 2019! An absolute epic worthy of Homer himself, Circe has won my heart and I will never forget her. Next on deck: The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/04/circe-by-madeline-miller-review.html

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts Review

Title: Finding Dorothy

Author: Elizabeth Letts

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               The Wizard of Oz is a facet of Americana, a gem in film, and I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t know of Dorothy Gale and her glittering ruby slippers. But I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about the man behind Oz, the books or the movie, until now. This sparkling, beautiful gem of a novel captured my heart and bewitched my imagination, wrung my heart out until it was empty, then full again. It was like this book pulled back the curtain on one of Old Hollywood’s most beloved film, seen through the eyes of L. Frank Baum’s fierce, strong widow, Maud. One of the reasons that I love historical fiction so much, as a genre, is that it puts a fictional perspective on real events, and this book delivered in spades. I can’t wait to read more from Elizabeth Letts!

               Finding Dorothy tells the story of Maud Gage-Baum, the unsinkable widow of the visionary, Lyman Frank Baum, and her fierce determination to see her late husband’s vision brought to life. It begins in Hollywood, in 1939, with Maud meeting Judy Garland at 16; Maud was 76 when she met the starlet for the first time. But to say that this book is wholly about the movie production of The Wizard of Oz would be to do this whole book a disservice. Frank Baum’s legacy is but a small part of this book, for the focus of it is Maud. From her girlhood, to college, to her marriage to Frank, the book moves back and forth between 1939 and moments from Maud’s own past. I was immediately spellbound by the gorgeous prose, and my heart was stolen by Maud, her husband, and children, as well as other members of her family. I love how this book did justice to one of America’s best loved films, and how it also tied in the creator’s history. But Maud was, unapologetically, the star of this book, and I loved every moment of it. And that ending! It had me bawling like a baby, in the best kind of way. This book is like one of the best kinds of wish fulfillment; I loved the way that it talked about Old Hollywood and Judy Garland! One of my favorite parts of the novel was the way that it emphasized that iconic song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’; that, for me, is what I remember Judy Garland most for. Honestly, I adored this book, and I loved the way that Letts researched every single detail. Finding Dorothy is about so much more than the magical land of Oz. It is just as much about the real people who helped inspire it, and come into being.

    I absolutely adored this book; it was a sweet reminder of how much I love historical fiction, and why. It was thoroughly researched and well written, and I adored the way that it put the spotlight on the woman behind the innovator and inventor, Lyman Frank Baum. I also really liked the way that his and Maud’s personalities complemented each other:  Maud with her feet firmly planted on the ground and in reality, ready to ground Frank whenever possible, and Frank constantly dreaming of a brighter future, of dreams that eventually culminated into the bestseller The Wizard of Oz. I also enjoyed the cast of characters that framed our lovely couple: Maud’s mother, Matilda, her sister Julia and her brother T.C., and her darling niece, Magdalena. And that ending! It was so perfect, and had me in joyous tears when I finished it last night. A beautiful, wonderful book as sparkling and promising as The Emerald City itself! The bottom line: Rich with historical detail and gorgeous prose, I loved Finding Dorothy! I can’t wait to read more of Elizabeth Lett’s work! Next on deck: Circe by Madeleine Miller!

https://literatureobsessed.blogspot.com/2019/04/finding-dorothy-by-elizabeth-letts.html

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts Review

Title: Finding Dorothy

Author: Elizabeth Letts

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               The Wizard of Oz is a facet of Americana, a gem in film, and I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t know of Dorothy Gale and her glittering ruby slippers. But I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about the man behind Oz, the books or the movie, until now. This sparkling, beautiful gem of a novel captured my heart and bewitched my imagination, wrung my heart out until it was empty, then full again. It was like this book pulled back the curtain on one of Old Hollywood’s most beloved film, seen through the eyes of L. Frank Baum’s fierce, strong widow, Maud. One of the reasons that I love historical fiction so much, as a genre, is that it puts a fictional perspective on real events, and this book delivered in spades. I can’t wait to read more from Elizabeth Letts!

               Finding Dorothy tells the story of Maud Gage-Baum, the unsinkable widow of the visionary, Lyman Frank Baum, and her fierce determination to see her late husband’s vision brought to life. It begins in Hollywood, in 1939, with Maud meeting Judy Garland at 16; Maud was 76 when she met the starlet for the first time. But to say that this book is wholly about the movie production of The Wizard of Oz would be to do this whole book a disservice. Frank Baum’s legacy is but a small part of this book, for the focus of it is Maud. From her girlhood, to college, to her marriage to Frank, the book moves back and forth between 1939 and moments from Maud’s own past. I was immediately spellbound by the gorgeous prose, and my heart was stolen by Maud, her husband, and children, as well as other members of her family. I love how this book did justice to one of America’s best loved films, and how it also tied in the creator’s history. But Maud was, unapologetically, the star of this book, and I loved every moment of it. And that ending! It had me bawling like a baby, in the best kind of way. This book is like one of the best kinds of wish fulfillment; I loved the way that it talked about Old Hollywood and Judy Garland! One of my favorite parts of the novel was the way that it emphasized that iconic song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’; that, for me, is what I remember Judy Garland most for. Honestly, I adored this book, and I loved the way that Letts researched every single detail. Finding Dorothy is about so much more than the magical land of Oz. It is just as much about the real people who helped inspire it, and come into being.

    I absolutely adored this book; it was a sweet reminder of how much I love historical fiction, and why. It was thoroughly researched and well written, and I adored the way that it put the spotlight on the woman behind the innovator and inventor, Lyman Frank Baum. I also really liked the way that his and Maud’s personalities complemented each other:  Maud with her feet firmly planted on the ground and in reality, ready to ground Frank whenever possible, and Frank constantly dreaming of a brighter future, of dreams that eventually culminated into the bestseller The Wizard of Oz. I also enjoyed the cast of characters that framed our lovely couple: Maud’s mother, Matilda, her sister Julia and her brother T.C., and her darling niece, Magdalena. And that ending! It was so perfect, and had me in joyous tears when I finished it last night. A beautiful, wonderful book as sparkling and promising as The Emerald City itself! The bottom line: Rich with historical detail and gorgeous prose, I loved Finding Dorothy! I can’t wait to read more of Elizabeth Lett’s work! Next on deck: Circe by Madeleine Miller!

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