Dani is a Book & Wine Pairing Blogger from the mountains of West Virginia. She loves to read anything she can get her hands on while sipping on a glass of wine and snuggling with her fur-babies.

Professional ReaderReviews Published
Book of the Month - May 2018

Book of the Month - May 2018


Still Lives

By Maria Hummel

Choosing a book from BOTM this month was a little difficult. I was on vacation when the selections came out, and I was down to the wire on even getting to chose a book (literally, I finally chose my selection at 11:56 pm on May 4th, when the deadline to choose is midnight on the 5th of the month.) I was dog tired, lying in bed with my sister, trying to read the synopses out loud to her for input, with my eyes rolling into the back of my head. None of my words came out right, and several - rather easy words, I have to say - even needed sounding out. Probably not the best way to choose this month's book, but finally we decided on Still Lives by Maria Hummel. 

The next day, while riding in the absolute best Uber ride ever with her to Universal Studios - to spend the day at Harry Potter World of course! - I quickly re-read the synopsis for my chosen book, and the ones I declined to see if we had made a good choice. Surprisingly, for this month's BOTM, even on a normal day, I would have only selected the one book. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner would have been a close second, but I'm happy with not spending the extra money this month, because you know I spent a ton buying up all the Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, pumpkin juice and Butterbeer that my little heart desired! 

That being said, let's see if you would have chosen the same or different than my sister and me in our sleep-deprived state. This month's other BOTM selections were:

The Perfect Mother 
by Aimee Molloy (Thriller)

A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.
They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.
When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they are looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: One of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing.
What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed. An addictive psychological thriller, The Perfect Mother is soon to be a major motion picture starring Scandal’s Kerry Washington. (source)

Small Country 
by Gaël Faye (Life Journeys)

“I was born with this story. It ran in my blood. I belonged to it.”
Burundi, 1992. For ten-year-old Gabriel, life in his comfortable expatriate neighborhood of Bujumbura with his French father, Rwandan mother, and little sister Ana, is something close to paradise.
These are carefree days of laughter and adventure—sneaking Supermatch cigarettes and gorging on stolen mangoes—as he and his mischievous gang of friends transform their tiny cul-de-sac into their kingdom.
But dark clouds are gathering over this small country, and soon their peaceful existence will shatter when Burundi, and neighboring Rwanda, are brutally hit by civil war and genocide.
A novel of extraordinary power and beauty, Small Country describes an end of innocence as seen through the eyes of a child caught in the maelstrom of history. Shot through with shadows and light, tragedy and humor, it is a stirring tribute not only to a dark chapter in Africa’s past, but also to the bright days that preceded it. (source)

How to Walk Away 
by Katherine Center (Romance)

Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she’s worked for so hard and so long: A new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment.
In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancé, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there's her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there's Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won't let her give in to her pity, and who sees her like no one has seen her before. Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.
A masterpiece of a novel, How to Walk Away is both hopeful and hilarious; truthful and wise; tender and brave. (source)

The Mars Room 
by Rachel Kushner (Literary Fiction)

It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living.
Stunning and unsentimental, The Mars Room demonstrates new levels of mastery and depth in Kushner’s work. It is audacious and tragic, propulsive and yet beautifully refined, a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America. (source)

Maria Hummel is the author of Motherhood, a San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year; House and Fire; and Wilderness Run. Her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including the Pushcart Prize, Narrative, The Sun and The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine. She worked as a writer/editor at MOCA in Los Angeles, then received a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and taught there for many years. She is currently an assistant professor at the University of Vermont, and lives in Vermont with her husband and sons. 


A young editor at a Los Angeles art museum finds herself pulled into the disturbing and dangerous world of a famous artist who goes missing on the opening night of her exhibition. 

Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition, Still Lives, features portraits in which she depicts herself as famous, murdered women - the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among others - and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city's richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum's opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution's flailing finances.

Except that Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala.

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on he up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie's ex. A rogue's gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord's disappearance, she'll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Set against a culture that often fetishizes violence, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world's hall of mirrors, and one woman's journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets. (Counterpoint)


While I was super excited to read this book, in the end it was a bit disappointing. I loved the concept of the book: artist creates art - paintings of murdered women - with herself portrayed as the victims, and ends up murdered herself. Why wouldn't that be a catching tale?!

Unfortunately, Still Lives was a slow and rather boring love triangle story that had the backbone to be a real exciting and thrilling piece of art, but that backbone was hung and drug through muddy waters of too much love triangle, not enough thrill, and no pow at the end.

While I did finish this book in just a couple days, I only finished it so quickly in anticipation of my next book in my very tall pile of TBR books. I'm sad to say that Still Lives did not live up to the anticipation I had of reading it.


From one bookaholic to another, I hope I’ve helped you find your next fix.

Dani's Score out of 5: 📚📚📚

Pair it with: Layer Cake Malbec

Big, brooding, black fruit, then rich earth, truffles and dark cocoa are at the front. The Sea of Stones vineyard is at its core, always evident with the thread of minerality that the deep alluvial cobblestones lend. This wine is elegant in the mouth with fresh-picked blackberries, simmering chocolate sauce on the stove, and somewhere someone’s cooking bacon…so many layers, so little time. Drinking a bottle of this wine will certainly lead to, well, opening another. (source)

Start a conversation: If you were an artist, what kind of art would you create? 

Have a book you’d like to suggest or one you’d like me to review? Please feel free to leave your comments down below.

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