THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika Swyler

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Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Released: June 23, 2015
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½


A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother’s name. What is the book’s connection to his family?

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.


THE BOOK OF SPECULATION is an impressive debut novel by Erika Swyler. As a book nerd, the story resonated with me. Anything about books, right? The author beautifully blended magical realism, historical fiction, and mystery to create an amazing Gothic tale about a family cursed for centuries.

I enjoyed the somewhat quirky main character Simon Watson. Simon is a young librarian, around 30, who seems better suited to have lived before the digital age. He receives a mysterious book, a very old circus ledger actually, with his deceased grandmother’s name in it. The women in his family, though blessed with a special ability, have been cursed for centuries to die young. Simon is tasked with deciphering the meaning of the book before his sister becomes the curse’s next victim.

The language in this book is gorgeous and lyrical, and I loved the haunting Gothic feeling of the story. While the plot is not fast-paced, I stayed hooked to the very end. Some elements in this book reminded me of Alice Hoffman’s writing, which I always enjoy. It gives an interesting look into the world of tarot card reading too. 4.5-stars!

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

THE HUMMINGBIRD’S CAGE by Tamara Dietrich

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Publisher: NAL
Released: June 2, 2015
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: ★★★★


A dazzling debut novel about taking chances, finding hope, and learning to stand up for your dreams…

Everyone in Wheeler, New Mexico, thinks Joanna leads the perfect life: the quiet, contented housewife of a dashing deputy sheriff, raising a beautiful young daughter, Laurel. But Joanna’s reality is nothing like her facade. Behind closed doors, she lives in constant fear of her husband. She’s been trapped for so long, escape seems impossible—until a stranger offers her the help she needs to flee…

On the run, Joanna and Laurel stumble upon the small town of Morro, a charming and magical village that seems to exist out of time and place. There a farmer and his wife offer her sanctuary, and soon, between the comfort of her new home and blossoming friendships, Joanna’s soul begins to heal, easing the wounds of a decade of abuse.

But her past—and her husband—aren’t so easy to escape. Unwilling to live in fear any longer, Joanna must summon a strength she never knew she had to fight back and forge a new life for her daughter and herself…


THE HUMMINGBIRD’S CAGE wasn’t an easy book to read – stories with gawd-awful abusive husbands never are – but at the same time it pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. For Joanna to have survived so long with this a-hole is amazing. Finally, a stranger comes along and offers to help her escape, and Joanna and her young daughter end up in an idyllic town called Morro.

I can’t say much about the plot without giving away spoilers, other than Morro was a curious place, and Joanna was drawn there for a reason. While the beginning of the book was suspenseful and gut-wrenching, the pace slowed down during her time in Morro. There was much for Joanna to take in and process, but it seemed her husband’s threatening presence was always close by. I thought that the ending was great, very dramatic, and also a bit sad – though in a bittersweet way.

I enjoyed Tamara Dietrich’s engaging writing style and complex characters. Joanna’s story is a haunting one, and one that I won’t soon forget.

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

Book Review: THE MEMORY GARDEN by Mary Rickert

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: May 6, 2014
Source: Review copy from publisher
Rating: ★★½


An atmospheric and eerie crossover debut of mothers and daughters, friendship and forgiveness, that’s being compared to early Alice Hoffman and classics like The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

 Sixteen-year-old Bay Singer doesn’t believe the rumors that her eccentric mother, Nan, is a witch. It’s just the gossip of their small town, Bay thinks, until two eccentric friends from Nan’s past unexpectedly appear one afternoon. The curious reunion summons haunting memories: of an oath the three women took years ago, when they were girls themselves, and the devastating secret they promised to protect. What they unearth has already claimed one life, leaving Bay wondering who the real witches are, and who is truly wicked.


THE MEMORY GARDEN is a curious coming-of-age story threaded through with magical realism, unsettling memories, and herbal folklore. At the heart of the story is Bay, a teenage girl being raised by her adoptive mother Nan, an elderly woman thought to be a witch. Nan has spent many years harboring guilt over a tragedy from her girlhood. Just after Bay’s 15th birthday, Nan invites the two friends who share her dark secret to visit, hoping to put the ghosts of the past to rest.

I was very intrigued by the premise of THE MEMORY GARDEN, but unfortunately the story and characters never quite clicked with me. The book had a slow start, and much of what was going on was hard for me to follow. After the big build up, the revelation at the end was a bit disappointing. I also wish the prose had flowed smoother than it did. The odd, choppy dialogue between characters didn’t help my confusion.

That said, there were parts of the book I enjoyed. I loved the strange atmosphere the author created with Nan’s rustic old house, her eccentric garden of mismatched shoe planters, and the restless spirits drawn to Bay and Nan. I also liked how the book highlighted the friendship between Nan, Ruthie, and Mavis that couldn’t be broken, even after decades apart.

Even though this book didn’t work for me, readers who like quirky tales, ghost stories, and magical realism might want to give it a try.

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

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