Friday, September 18, 2020
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Vying for the Viscount
By Kristi Ann Hunter
Bethany House, 2020. 348 pgs. Romance
Hudson has been raised in India his entire life to hide from an uncle who will do anything for the family title. His father has taught Hudson all the things he would need to know to someday return to England and become a Viscount. His parents died while in India and when Hudson learns of his grandfather's death, he makes the long journey back to England. He thinks he is prepared for society but finds his education very lacking.
Bianca Snowley has found refuge in riding horses at the neighboring stable for years. One day she is startled to see a strange man in the stables and after defending the horses, discovers that he is the new owner. For reasons of her own, she takes an interest in the newest bachelor in town but in a turn of events, they agree to help each other find eligible spouses. Bianca finds herself coaching Hudson on the basics of dancing and courtship, all the time harboring a growing attraction to him.
I really enjoyed this new series starter by Kristi Ann Hunter. Hudson and Bianca are fun characters that must decide if they are going to go along with what is expected by society, or if they are willing to do the best thing for each one of them. I was also surprised how much I enjoyed learning about horses and horse racing since horses are not something I typically take an interest in. I have read a lot of Regency romance and I liked this story line of someone who is utterly unprepared for Society and all the silliness that goes on but is willing to reach out to new friends for help.
Friday, September 11, 2020
By Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 662 pages. Young Adult
When Bella met Edward, her world was set on a path where everything changed in less than a moment. We followed Bella’s thoughts and feelings in Twilight, but what was going on behind Edward’s eyes? The long-awaited Midnight Sun shows their iconic origin story from Edward’s much darker perspective. Edward’s inner struggle is brought to light as he wrestles with what he believes is right and what he discovers he must have.
While mirroring the events of Twilight, Midnight Sun also illuminates the mystery of many behind-the-scene moments and character backstories only mentioned in the series. Delving into the depths of Edward’s mind and discovering how close every encounter came to ruin was definitely worth the all-nighter. Whether read alone or along with the series, this is a fascinating and engaging companion to the classic romance that rewrote a genre.
Saturday, September 5, 2020
By Stephan Lee
Point, 2020. 323 pages. Young Adult
Candace Park is trying do what’s expected of her. She attends a good school, plays viola, and appreciates her Korean heritage, but Candance wants to sing, and she’s good at it. Encouraged by her best friends Imani and Ethan, she secretly auditions for one of Korea’s biggest entertainment companies. When she’s invited to come train in Seoul, Candace must convince her overly protective parents to let her train for the summer, just to see if she can do it. Trainee life is difficult, and only a handful of the 49 girls will debut, but Candace is determined to be one of them, even when the odds are stacked against her.
The K-pop industry is known for glitzy performances and near perfect idols, but we see behind the curtain through Candace’s eyes at the hardships they face. This book tackles a wide range of issues such as racism, feminism, beauty expectations, unfair labor practices, classism, immigration, and privilege, all with the backdrop of K-pop. Candace is a spunky protagonist with a harrowing journey before her, and even with such heavy hitting issues Lee keeps the pace moving and the book was hard to put down. I would easily recommend this book to fans of Korean entertainment, but also anyone looking for a witty, determined protagonist ready to subvert expectations.
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
by Tomas Navarro
Sounds True, 2019. 273 pages. Nonfiction
Cultivate inner strength and rebuild your life with the ancient principles of kintsugi. When we lose a person we love, a job, or our health, it can feel like a precious piece of ourselves falling to the ground and shattering. But in the Japanese art of kintsugi, that's where the creation of beauty begins-in the delicate re-joining and mending of shards with loving attention. Psychology Tomas Navarro encourages us to approach our lives in the same way.
The imagery of a pot being broken and then put back together with gold, making it worth even more, and then comparing that to our lives is one of my favorite comparisons that I have ever heard. The book does a wonderful job of giving guidance and advice on how to improve ourselves while at the same time appreciating our flaws and weaknesses and improving upon them. It stresses the importance of living and not just surviving which includes all of the painful lessons life can throw at us. The book is an easy and fast read and you will want to keep turning the pages to discover the little truths the author has written.
by Abigail Hing Wen
HarperTeen, 2020. 414 Pages. Young Adult
Ever Wong just wants to dance. She has been on dance squad and color guard; she choreographs all their dances, and she lives and breathes ballet. But Ever Wong has two very determined parents who have decided that she is going to be a doctor. Her father was a doctor in Taiwan, but his degree didn't carry over when they came to the US. Her parents have scrimped and saved for Ever to get into medical school. And Ever does! She makes it into Northwestern University. But she also makes it into dance school. Ever knows her parents will never approve of her dancing so she ends up declining dance school. Before she can grieve too deeply, her parents send her away to a Taiwanese immersion program that will take up the rest of her summer. While there she discovers that the program is nick-named the Loveboat because everyone hooks up during their stay in Taiwan. Every kid is smart. Almost every kid is rich. And all they want to do is sneak out at night and go to dance parties. Ever thought that she would hate the program, but she soon makes a circle of friends, including several very handsome boys. Normal teenage drama ensues, including the obligatory love triangle, and Ever has to decide how to deal with this drama while also trying to figure out who she really is and wants to become.
This book has adult themes, but it handles them so well I didn't end of throwing the book across the room. The writing is smart and easy to get caught up in, just like one of Ever's dance routines. This is a coming of age story with all the appropriate themes of leaving home, making friends, breaking rules, getting in trouble, trying to get out of trouble, being jealous, being sad, missing home, etc. I thought that this was just another Teen Rom Com, but Ever’s journey to self-actualization is compelling. I groaned several times at the choices she made, but was pleasantly surprised at how Wen used these moments to show Ever thinking through what she had done. There are always consequences to choices, good and bad, and that is what this book so effectively shows.
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Senior pediatrics doctor Liz Trenchard is called down to the ER on a Friday night for an infant with a head injury. When she arrives, she is shocked to see her good friend of a decade, Jess, with her 10-month-old baby. The explanation for the injury that Jess gives doesn’t add up, and Liz is sure her friend is hiding something. Jess is outwardly the perfect mother, but after the traumatic birth of her youngest, she is constantly engulfed by dark thoughts and knows her children would be better off without her. Jess’ mind and her relationships are brought to the breaking point as social services are called in to investigate her baby’s injury.
This psychological thriller offers a raw and intense look at the complexities of motherhood and a highly researched portrayal of postpartum distress, with a particular focus on intrusive thoughts of infant harm. The story is compelling and while the subject matter is heavy, it is meaningful. The story is told from multiple points of view, and jumps back and forth in time to give a more complete picture of characters and events. I really appreciated the fictional depiction of postpartum distress; reading someone’s inner dialogue is a completely different experience than reading about it in a nonfiction book. Other motherhood challenges are brought up as well, from working moms to divorce, to dealing with past abuse by parents to alcohol abuse.
Postpartum distress needs as much awareness as it can get so that struggling mothers know they aren’t alone and can get help. I highly recommend this for anyone willing to read an emotionally heavy book. For anyone dealing with postpartum distress I would cautiously recommend it as a haunting and emotionally difficult yet satisfying read.
By Taylor G. Petrey
University of North Carolina Press, 2020. 273 pages. Nonfiction
This very well-researched book discusses Latter-day Saint (LDS) teachings on gender and sexuality since WWII, including such topics as interracial marriage, the ERA movement, feminism, birth control, homosexuality, gender identity, and same-sex marriage. Various changes in Church policy over the decades are shown in the context of an evolving American mentality, comparing formal statements on a wide array of topics. Petrey's conclusion: there is ongoing conflict in Mormon doctrine between the ideas of fixed, eternal gender and sexuality, and fluid, malleable gender and sexuality.
What I appreciated most about this book (besides the beautiful cover) is the plain presentation of the facts; Petrey didn't mangle them into a pretty picture, but rather showed them in their tangled, confusing form. It's safe to say that Mormon ideas about gender and sexuality have changed over time. While these shifts may make some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uncomfortable, I believe that it's in this fertile soil of discomfort that empathy and self-awareness can grow. I recommend this book to those ready for a deep dive, replete with fresh insights to gender and sexuality in a modern church.
Monday, August 31, 2020
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey, 2019. 338 pages. Science Fiction
The rest of the world is living it up during the Jazz Age, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors and taking care of her wealthy grandfather. It seems that her dreams of leaving her small Mexican town will never come true, until one day when in an act of rebellion, she opens a curious wooden box and sets free the spirit of the Mayan god of death. Casiopea must help the god recover his throne from his treacherous brother, and journeys from the jungles of the Yucatan to Mexico City, Baja California, and the Mayan underworld in hopes of saving herself and the world.
This was a wonderful mix of Cinderella, Percy Jackson, and Mexican geography with beautiful language, strong characters, and a moving tale of redemption. Casiopea is strong, brave, and makes sacrifices to protect her family and others. She is down-to-earth, but wants more than what life has given her and is willing to fight for dreams that she didn’t know she had. The descriptions of Mexico and Mayan mythology are expansive, accurate, and beautiful at the same time. The romance is slow-building, but realistic, and the ending was authentic and true to Casiopea’s character. I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys historical fantasy, dark fantasy, or descriptive fiction.
For those that enjoyed James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series and books the mix magic and technology, this should be the next book on your list! The way the author mixes magic and technology is profoundly interesting. Not only that, but he takes that technology to its political, moral, and religious extreme to set up the universe spanning conflict.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
By Zetta Elliot
Brown Books, 2020. 96 pages. Poetry
Monday, August 24, 2020
by Kiku Hughes
First Second, 2020. 288 pgs. Young Adult Graphic Novels
Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco with her mother when she finds herself pulled back in time, or displaced, in the 1940s. She knows the basics of prejudices against Japanese-Americans during this time, but she experiences firsthand the hardships as she follows her late grandmother to the internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Through living at camp, Kiku begins to understand how the lives and future generations were impacted by the denial of civil liberties, but she also learns that a sense of community and resistance was also cultivated in the camps.
This is a heart-wrenching story that highlights the intergenerational impact of the WWII Japanese internment camps in the style of Octavia Butler. In the midst of our current discussions of immigration and civil liberties, books like this and They Called Us Enemy by George Takei remind us of the power of memory. The illustrations and story evoke strong emotions of struggles, strength, and resilience in the face of uncertainty and hatred. I have visited Topaz and learned about the internment camps during history class, but this brought the story to life in ways that were new and interested, and made me feel more connected. This is a great book for anyone who enjoys graphic nonfiction, historical fiction, or new perspectives.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Friday, August 14, 2020
Thursday, August 6, 2020
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Monday, August 3, 2020
By Erik Larson
Crown, 2020. 464 pgs. Nonfiction
Larson recounts Churchill's first days as prime minister and follows his life and the lives of his family during the worst of the Blitz in Britain. Not quite a complete view of WWII, this book describes the Royal Air Force and many air battles between Germany and Britain, but sometimes pivots to Churchill's home life, the dramas of his family members, or the efforts to raise America's help. At times, I felt that this book wasn't sure what it wanted to talk about. If you can accept that this will take a bit of a meandering view of this era of Churchill's life, you will find many fascinating stories and interesting glimpses of things you've never known about Britain during the Blitz. Erik Larson is known for weaving compelling nonfiction narratives, and this book is no exception. A recommended read for any who may be going through difficult times and who might be heartened by hearing how previous generations dealt with crises.
Saturday, August 1, 2020
by Christina Dalcher
Berkley, 2018. 326 pages. Sci-Fi
When the United States government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, it's only the beginning. Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. As a mother of four and a cognitive-linguistic scientist, Dr. Jean McClellan will reclaim that voice, fighting against the broken system she did nothing to correct as she saw it being installed.
This dystopian novel for adults obviously deals with sexism: citizens are denied rights based on their gender, and women are legally viewed as lesser than men. But it also shows a dark, possible future where the boundary between fundamentalist religion and government has been completely erased: the basis for this double-standard has roots in religious extremism. The fast pace makes this a quick read and a good thought-piece, although it's not without some strong language.
by Rani Shah
Dey St., 2020. 126 pages. Nonfiction
We could all learn a thing or two about living in balance from our friends in the plant and animal kingdom. Take, for example, the jellyfish, one of the most energy-efficient animals in the world, moving through the ocean by contracting and relaxing, with frequent breaks in between. We need look no farther than nature for small and simple things we can do to slow down, recharge, and living more thoughtfully, lovingly, and harmoniously.
This book was such a delight to read. Each chapter was short and to the point, making it a fast and easy read. Each animal or plant that the author highlighted has qualities that we all desire in order to become our best selves. Not only are you learning about how to improve yourself but you are also learning interesting facts about some of the animals and plants that inhabit our earth. Besides the jellyfish you will learn qualities from the porcupine, octopus, the sunflower, the vervet monkey, and the sloth, just to name a few of my favorites. This is one of my new favorite self-help books.
Friday, July 31, 2020
By Jennifer Donnelly
Scholastic Press, 2019. 352 pages. Young Adult
This is the story of Cinderella's stepsister Isabelle, who cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella's shoe. When her deception is discovered, Isabelle is cast aside in her shame, while Cinderella heads off for her happily ever after. But Isabelle's story is only just beginning. Isabelle's life has been one in which her lack of beauty cost her happiness and hampered her spirit, and she is far from perfect. But the literal embodiment of Chance is on her side, fighting to give her an edge over Fate. Armed not with a pumpkin-turned carriage and rags-turned-ballgown, but with gifts befitting her fire and bravery, it is up to Isabelle to save those she loves and snatch herself from Fate's grasp.
Isabelle is a flawed character who must overcome her own shortcomings as much as the cruel hand life has dealt her. She also must come to terms with the life expected of her as a woman in 18th-century France, and the life she dreams of, unfettered by any restriction. This story was so imaginative and unusual that I couldn't help but be pulled along. Recommended for fans of "fractured fairy tales" and those who want to cheer on the underdog.
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Monday, July 20, 2020
by Terry Tempest Williams
Sarah Crichton Books, 2012. 208 pages. Nonfiction.
When Diane Tempest was dying of breast cancer, she bequeathed her journals to her daughter Terry Tempest Williams. When Williams found the fifty-four volumes, she discovered that each and every one of them was blank. In fifty-four meditations on voice, Williams explores what it means to have a voice, especially for women. Is there more than just being a wife and a mother for women to write about? Why were her mother’s journals blank? What does that mean for Williams? In her lyrical style, made famous by her beloved classic Refuge, Williams comes to terms with her mother’s silence.
I could not put this book down. I was drawn in by the shock of those blank journals and the discussion of voice. For Williams, self-expression is always tied to the land, and this volume is true to form. I was deeply moved by the first-person narrative of how the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was formed because a small group of writers decided to fight for the land that they love.
This book will touch those who are interested in mother-daughter relationships, those interested in the discussion of voice, and those who are interested in environmental writing. With such variation in subject, there will be something to please every reader.
Friday, July 17, 2020
by Mike Chen
Mira, 2019, 326 pages, Science Fiction
When a mission goes wrong, time travel agent Kin Stewart finds himself stranded in the 1990s. Unsure of what else to do and suffering from amnesia, Kin decides to start over and eventually settles down with a job in computer security and a wonderful wife and daughter. When a fellow time travel agent finds him eighteen years later, Kin is shocked to discover that he belongs in 2142, and that he has a fiancée waiting for him there. Forced back into 2142, Kin must try to remember what his life was like before he left. But when Kin learns that his sudden disappearance has jeopardized his daughter’s life, Kin is determined to do whatever he can to fix the past.
While Chen writes science fiction, and the explanations of the rules of time travel seem solid, I think people will enjoy his books more for his skill in writing relationships and in character building. The ties Chen creates between fathers and daughters are especially well done. Kin’s drive to do whatever he can to save his daughter was heartwarming and urgent, and really made me root for him to succeed. The story starts out slowly as the different time periods and rules of time travel are explained, but the ending is a fast-paced action novel that had me at the edge of my seat.
Those who love character-driven time travel books like The Time Traveler’s Wife or How to Stop Time will enjoy Here and Now and Then.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
The Bromance Book Club
by Lyssa Kay Adams
Jove, 2019. 339 pgs. Romance
The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club. Professional baseball player Gavin Scott realizes that he has really messed up when his wife Thea asks for a divorce. He has been so busy with his career and their young twins that he hasn’t noticed how unhappy Thea is and how much of her life she has been faking it. He will do anything to win her back, including getting help from a secret romance-reading book club of Nashville’s top alpha men. With lots of mistakes and challenges along the way, will Gavin and Thea ever forgive each other and fall in love again?
I was initially draw to this book because I found the title so amusing, but the story and characters were so enjoyable and realistic that I couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for the next books in the series. The group of guys is diverse, funny, and not afraid to discuss emotions, toxic masculinity, and pumpkin spice lattes. They are also crude and competitive and egotistical. There are passages from the historical romance book scattered throughout, which was fun for fans of Regency romance. Gavin and Thea’s story develops so slowly that it feels realistic and you want them to succeed. There is strong language and mild sexual content, but this is a fun, contemporary read with likeable characters and a great bromance.
Monday, July 13, 2020
by Laura Lee Gulledge
Amulet Books, 2020. 180 pages. YA COMICS
Mona Starr feels all alone. Her best friend just moved to Hawaii and she finds it hard to make friends with other teens. Not only that, her depression has started to take over her life. She calls her depression her Matter, like Dark Matter. It colors all of her interactions with her family and other people at school. Through therapy, art, writing, and music, Mona is able to start to understand her Matter and learn how to manage it better.
This is a really important book. Not only does it address the physical and emotional sides of depression, but it shows them visually through pictures. As a visual learner myself, this book really helped me understand Mona’s experiences as a teen with deep depression. Mona’s Matter is shown as an inky black substance that follows and flows around her. Even though the topic is pretty heavy, the writing is crisp and hopeful. When Mona feels better about things her Matter turns into yellow stars.
As someone who manages depression and anxiety, I really wish that I had this book when I was younger. It really helps to give words to the feelings and physical symptoms of depression. It isn’t pedantic, the narrative is fun and fast paced. I was drawn in by the art and Mona’s sweet and quirky personality. This book is great for those managing depression and for those who have ever had to solve a big problem in their lives. It is super relatable.
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
by Tamora Pierce
Tempests and Slaughter centers on a young boy who wants very much to enjoy his time growing up without any notice whatsoever, but his unusual magic has other ideas. Following the adventures of young Arram and two misfit mages, Tamora Pierce builds a narrative of three unlikely friends whose bonds are strengthened by weathering the storm of secrets surrounding them.
I remember pulling books from Tamora Pierce off the shelves during middle school and her stories are still exciting to read, even so many years later. Tempests and Slaughter is a book that stands well on its own and is in good company with her other series. I am very much looking forward to rereading this until the next book comes out. Packed with action and surprises, I would recommend this book for any teen or adult reader craving fantasy and fun.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Harper Voyager, 2016. 443 pages. Science Fiction.
Desperate to leave Mars behind, Rosemary Harper takes a job on the aging ship, the Wayfarer. Rosemary signs on to be their clerk. And while her job is mundane, the crew is not. The crew of the Wayfarer, made up of four different species, four humans with backgrounds just as different as one species is from another, and an AI with a burgeoning sentience, punch holes in spacetime to make interplanetary and interstellar highways for small ships. When the captain takes on a job that will set up the future of his entire crew, what he doesn't know is that he is putting himself and his crew in between forces that have already drastically altered Rosemary's life as well as in the midst of a cultural war.
Offering a meditation on how families can be created through shared experiences and how different cultures can coexist despite their drastic differences, Chambers the space opera genre and gives it a core of family drama, filling a universe with characters that feel like real people. For people who want the action packed space operas like Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, but want a down-to-earth component that provides a breath of fresh air in between tense sections of the book.
Thursday, July 2, 2020
By Sarah Dessen
Balzer + Bray, 2019. 440 pages. Young Adult
With her father leaving the country and her summer plans falling through, Emma Saylor Payne is stuck with nowhere to go. She ends up at North Lake, staying the summer with the grandmother she hasn’t seen since her mother’s funeral. As she reconnects with old family and friends, Emma Saylor realizes that there was far more to her mother’s life than she previously realized, and that North Lake has some major socio-economic divides she was previously unaware of. Not only does Emma Saylor find a spirit of her mother about the place, but she also starts to rediscover parts of herself she forgot existed.
This was such a charming story of self-discovery and empathy. Emma Saylor starts with such a narrow view of her mother’s family, but as she hears other people’s stories, and learns more about her own story, she realizes her mother’s life wasn’t quite as black and white as she originally believed. The deep character growth is exactly what I want in a novel like this. The side characters are delightful, and the setting feels realistic. Overall a wonderful contemporary read I could easily recommend.