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Review: The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I was not given any additional compensation. 

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh releases 1/8/2019 from Hamish Hamilton (#partner). Described as The Handmaid's Tale meets The Virgin Suicides, this debut novel was long listed for the Man Booker Prize for 2018 and I predict it will be one of the first big hits of 2019.

Netgalley Description:
"King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world. But when their father, the only man they've ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day two men and a boy wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent."

My Review:
This dystopian fiction story of 3 sisters raised to fear men and kept separate from the rest of the world was a bit of a slow starter for me. However, once I got my footing on the structure and style of the story, I tore through it. Author Sophie Mackintosh's writing is clean but raw, it will slice your heart and drop your jaw. This is a novel that is difficult to explain without giving away any spoilers, but I definitely agree with the description of The Handmaid's Tale meets The Virgin Suicides. I know that every feminist dystopia is labeled "the next Handmaid's Tale" but I rarely agree (Vox may have been the closest). The Water Cure is primal and psychologically addictive. I recommend this if you love feminist fiction and are comfortable reading something a bit left of mainstream.

Review: Murder by the Book by Claire Harman

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation.

Goodreads Summary:
A gripping investigation into the crime that scandalized literary London, from Dickens to Thackeray.
On a spring morning in 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a household of servants awoke to discover that their unobtrusive master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed.
The whole of London, from monarch to maidservants, was scandalized by the unfolding drama of such a shocking murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction. For when the culprit eventually confessed, he claimed his actions were the direct result of reading the best-selling crime-novel of the day. This announcement amazed the key literary figures of the time, from Thackeray to Dickens, and posed the question: can a work of fiction do real harm?

My Review:
Murder by the Book: A Sensational Chapter in Victorian Crime by Clare Harman is historical true crime at its absolute best. Author Claire Harman transports readers to 1840 London and the sensational murder Lord William Russell. Russell was found on a May morning by his maid, with his throat slit so severely that his head was almost completely detached. The upper class neighborhood where the murder occurred was suddenly in a panic, and so was all of London when the murderer claimed to have been inspired by a newly released novel. Featuring several of the key literary figures of the time (including Dickens, Poe, and Thackeray) Murder by the Book will have you thinking about life imitating art, censorship laws, copycat killers, and the sensationalism of murders in the media. This slim novel (170 pages + several reference pages at the end) is a quick read and the literary element kept me intrigued until the last page.

Review: Physical Disobedience by Sarah Hays Coomer

(Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation.)

Goodreads Summary:
Even as a wave of renewed feminism swells, too many women continue to starve, stuff, overwork, or neglect our bodies in pursuit of paper-thin ideals. "Fitness" has been co-opted by the beauty industry. We associate it with appearance when we should associate it with power.

Grounded in advocacy with a rowdy, accessible spirit, Physical Disobedience asserts that denigrating our bodies is, in practice, an act of submission to inequality. But when we strengthen ourselves--taking broad command of our individual physicality--we reclaim our authority and build stamina for the literal work of activism: the protests, community service, and emotional resilience it takes to face the news and stay engaged.

Physical Disobedience introduces a breathtaking new perspective on wellness by encouraging nonviolence toward our bodies, revitalizing them through diet and exercise, fashion and social media, alternative therapies, music, and motherhood. The goal is no longer to keep our bodies in check. The goal is to ignite them, to set them free, and have a mighty fine time doing it.

About the Author: 
Sarah Hays Coomer is a self-proclaimed “diet abolitionist” and a lover of all things sugared, salted, fried, or dipped in dark chocolate. She is the author of Lightness of Body and Mind: A Radical Approach to Weight and Wellness. She kind of likes to exercise, kind of not. Sarah is a Certified Personal Trainer with the National Strength and Conditioning Association; a member of the American College of Sports Medicine; and a certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant and Pre/Postnatal Fitness Specialist with American Fitness Professionals & Associates. 

My Review:
This book is part motivational mantras, part social analysis, and part workbook. It is divided into small chapters so you can read and then think on each section bit by bit. While this book focuses on taking care of your personal health it also emphasizes the importance that we aren't perfect and we need to stop expecting ourselves to be. This would be perfect to have on your nightstand to read a chapter each night or first thing in the morning. 

Review: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield releases December 4, 2018 from Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. 

Goodreads Summary:
A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.
Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
Or can it be explained by science?
Replete with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

My Review:
I was very nervous about reading this book. I (along with almost every book lover I know who has read it) loved Diane Setterfield's debut novel The Thirteenth Tale. However, her follow-up fell terribly flat. Five years ago I read and reviewed Bellman & Black (read my review HERE) and it was one of the worst books I've ever read. I tried so hard to find something good to say about that book, but I just could not. So...since I loved her first novel and definitely did not love her second novel, I obviously had no idea of what to expect from Once Upon a River. Short answer--I loved it! I was holding my breath and crossing my fingers that I would and I am excited to say that it is fabulous. The characters, community, and their customs drew me in and the twists and turns of the story were just slippery enough to keep me guessing and then come together for a perfect ending. I think this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers and will probably be a popular book club pick in 2019!