Peter Heller’s The River (2019)

The River

Jack and Wynn have been best friends since their college freshmen orientation. In many ways, they couldn’t be more different–the former an engineering major, more pragmatic, raised on a Colorado ranch; the latter an art major, more optimistic, raised in a comfortable, well-to-do Vermont home. Still, they’re bonded by a love of the outdoors, of canoeing, of fishing, and of reading.

It’s no surprise that they decide to spend August on a canoe trip in northern Canada–their goal a small village on Hudson Bay after an approximately 150 mile-long trip. Things take an unexpected turn when they realize a large wildfire rages near the river. Then, they hear a couple arguing one day in the fog. The next day, a lone man paddles up the river. . . .

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Shawn Levy’s The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont (2019)

The Castle on Sunset

“If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont”–Harry Cohn

“If you want to be seen, go to the Beverly Hills Hotel. If you don’t want to be seen, go to Chateau Marmont.”–pretty much everyone who was anyone in Hollywood since the 1930s

Need a relatively quiet place to write a screenplay or stay while you film a project in town? Check into the Chateau Marmont!

Need a private place to stay after your spouse kicked you out of the marital home? Check into the Chateau Marmont!

Need a discrete place to stay for, ahem, extracurricular activities that could endanger your reputation? Check into the Chateau Marmont!

(Obviously I missed my calling writing ad copy for this place. . . .)

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Nita Gould’s Remembering Ella (2018)

Remembering Ella

One of the more infamous crimes in our local area is the gruesome 1912 murder of Ella Barham in rural Boone County, which is just next door to us here in Berryville. I must confess, I had never actually heard of the crime until I read this book. Author Nita Gould has family ties to the case–Ella is a cousin, though one who died long before she was born. As Gould quickly learned when she started researching the case, local oral tradition of the case is unreliable and contradictory, so she instead turned to the extensive news coverage of the crime and court files to detail the murder of the vivacious eighteen-year-old and the subsequent arrest and trial of one of her neighbors. Thank you to Julie for ordering this book for me!

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Mary Doria Russell’s Doc (2011)

Doc

Doc Holliday probably needs no introduction. He’s one of the more mythic figures of the American West–the well-educated, consumptive, Georgia-born dandy, dentist, and gambler/gunfighter who tag-teamed with the Earp Brothers for the Gunfight at the OK Corral in the Arizona boomtown of Tombstone.

Most pop culture depictions of Holliday offer the legend called Doc. Though Mary Doria Russell chose that nickname as the title for her book, her focus is much more on the John Henry Holliday lurking underneath the legend.

This book was suggested to me by Leslie, one of my undergraduate English professors. Last year, she recommended The Hunting Accident to me, and recently, she asked me if I was familiar with Russell’s work. I quickly remedied that oversight, and I am so glad I did. Thanks for the wonderful recommendation, Leslie!

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Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers (2018)

Nine Perfect Strangers

I’ve been meaning to read Liane Moriarty for awhile. Her books seem right up my alley, so to speak, and Mary-Esther recently suggested that I give Moriarty’s most recent book a try. Since I was home sick for a protracted amount of time, I thought, “What better way to feel better about myself than reading about somebody else’s hellish experience at a health resort?”

And although the book did not, in point of fact, heal me of my own bronchitis, it was a wonderfully engaging page-turner–one I enjoyed very much. So much so that I’ve already requested a bunch of Moriarty’s other books from the library.

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Deborah Cadbury’s Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages That Shaped Europe (2017)

victoria matchmaking

If you enjoy PBS as much as I do, chances are you’re also spending your Sunday nights watching Victoria. Even if you’re not following the show, if you like historical nonfiction with a hefty dose of fascinating interpersonal relationships, have I got a book for you! Not your typical Valentine’s Day read but full of romance nonetheless.

Deborah Cadbury transitioned to writing historical nonfiction after a long career as a BBC producer. Quite a few of her books have focused on royalty, though this one has a much broader focus and grander ambition.

At its heart is Queen Victoria in her later years and the various schemes she and her extended family concocted to marry off her grandchildren. Her overarching goal was one of balancing power and ensuring peace in Europe, and she firmly believed that marital alliances between her grandchildren scattered across the continent and their respective royal houses was the key to achieving this ambition. However, her interests were not entirely mercenary, as she also plotted to pair up those whom she felt were the most well-suited for each other. But as the old saying about the “best-laid plans of mice and men” acknowledges, nothing actually went according to plan. . . .

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E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952)

Charlotte's Web

Wilbur is a sweet pig with a big problem. He’s, well, a pig. And no matter how delightful of a friend he is to young Fern, the young girl who saves him from a tragic early end, or Charlotte, the spider who lives in the barn, he’s still going to end up as Christmas dinner. That is, unless Charlotte can think of a way to save him. . . .

Confession: I’ve never read this book until now. Yes, I know that makes me a weirdo–who hasn’t read Charlotte’s Web?, you may ask. Well, me, that’s who. However, since it was the winner of the Great Berryville Read and is now officially our town’s favorite book, I decided to remedy my ignorance. And I’m glad I did.

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