Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Dinosaur Lords

The Dinosaur Lords
By Victor Milan
Tor, 2015. 445 pgs. Fiction

A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise but dinosaurs predominate, and they are the weapons of choice. During the course of one epic battle, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, partially amnesiac and hunted, and embarks upon a journey that will shake his world.

I started reading this book not because I thought it would be good, but because there was a dinosaur knight on the cover. That being said, this book was surprisingly well written. The world is well thought out and immersive, and the fast paced action makes it enjoyable. The characterization is a little weaker, with some of the main characters being underutilized and one dimensional, but there were a number of compelling characters that helped move the story along. Overall, it's not a book that I would recommend to everyone, but if you like unusual fantasy, you should give this one a try. GF

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Gospel at 30,000 Feet

The Gospel at 30,000 Feet
By Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Deseret Book, 2017. 129 pgs. Nonfiction

Dieter F. Uchtdorf had an incredibly successful career as an German aviator before being called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2004. He is known for his wonderful stories and metaphors on aviation in nearly every General Conference address.

 I really enjoyed this audiobook because it is read by Elder Uchtdorf. While many of the stories were familiar from past talks, there were several stories and insights that were new to me. Since this is such a short book, I was able to listen to it twice over the course of just a few days. I would recommend this book as a wonderful, uplifting read!


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan

Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan
By Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Henry Holt, 2016. 323 pgs. Nonfiction

The World War II battles in the Pacific against the Japanese were brutal and very costly in human lives.  As the United States pushed the Japanese back, suffering tremendous losses on island after island, it became clear that the final land invasion of Japan would also cause many US casualties.  The Japanese were trained to never surrender and their leaders were teaching every civilian man, woman, and child to fight as well.  Meanwhile, at Los Alamos, the atom bomb was finally completed, making it possible to consider ending the war without incurring thousands of deaths and injuries of US troops.

O'Reilly and Dugard detail this background to the decision to drop the atom bomb.  They describe the battles, the personalities of the major military leaders, and the unexpected presidency of Harry Truman.  Their aim is to help the present generation understand the context of the decision to drop the first atom bomb and they do it by bringing to life in dramatic detail the closing months of World War II in the Pacific. SH

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
by Daniel Goleman
Bantam Books, 2006. 352 pages. Nonfiction

In past decades there was a commonly held belief that intelligence was the key to success and even happiness, but Daniel Goleman’s seminal work, Emotional Intelligence, first published in 1995 revealed insight into the idea that personal qualities, such as initiative, empathy, adaptability, and persuasiveness can have more of an impact on our success in life than our IQ.

Through vivid examples, Goleman describes the important skills needed to develop emotional intelligence. An important concept in the book is that even though our experiences in childhood shape our ability to handle emotions, we all have the capacity to grow and change which can have a profound impact on our relationships, work environments, and even our physical well-being.

More than 20 years after his work was first published, Goleman’s ideas have infiltrated many of our society's beliefs and values. Reading this book today, I found myself already familiar with many of the concepts discussed. However, as more studies reveal the importance of “soft skills” such as self-regulation, empathy, generosity, and good communication, and additionally, the research frequently cites the concern that emotional intelligence is actually declining in youth today, I think this is still a very important book to read.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World

American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World
By David Baron
Liverlight Publishing, 2017. 330 pages.

This compelling historical narrative follows three brilliant scientists as they journey into the American Wild West to witness the total solar eclipse of 1878. Astronomer James Craig Watson sought fame in discovering a new planet; celebrity inventor Thomas Edison wanted scientific fame in testing a new astronomical device; progressive female astronomer Maria Mitchell set out with a group of all-women scientists not only to study the heavens, but also to prove that science is not just for the men.

David Baron writes a highly entertaining narrative of how excitement over the 1878 eclipse swept over the nation. Anyone who lived through our own all-American eclipse of 2017 can relate to the eclipse-fever that gripped both scientists and citizens alike. Readers will also appreciate the three-dimensionality in which Baron portrays these historical figures. They are not just names that we might here in history class, but real people, with real hopes and fears and ambitions. This book was a great read for anyone interested in history, science, or biographies of great Americans. 


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Love By the Book

Love By the Book
By Melissa Pimentel
Penguin Books, 2015. 336 pages. Fiction

Lauren Cunningham has moved from America to London in search of a fabulous single life with many a romantic dalliance and no relationship commitments.  Feeling that she's a bit unlucky in love, she decides to start an experiment in which she will follow a different dating guide each month, until she finds the perfect fit for her.  What follows is a drastically different Lauren from month to month, and some interesting observations about the dating world around her.

I adore audiobook narrator Jayne Entwhistle, and so I did a search on Overdrive (our resource for downloadable ebooks and audiobooks) for any audiobooks read by her and found this book.  True to form, Entwhistle did a delightful performance.  The story, however was a bit unexpected in both that it was a little more raunchy than I thought it would be, and then was more meaningful than I expected.  The first "dating experiment" Lauren goes on was so cringe-inducingly awful that I worried the book would be "here's how to screw up every relationship with different dating guides."  But Lauren does find some success with different methods, and in turn the guides give her some insights into herself and the guys she dates.  But I sure did feel bad for that first guy!


Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey
By Nick Bertozzi
First Second, 2014. 125 pages

In 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and company set out to be the first expedition to successfully cross the Antarctic continent. Fate had other plans for these intrepid explorers, however, as their ship was trapped in sea ice before the expedition ever made land. Thus began the harrowing journey back to safety and civilization that has been immortalized as a journey of fortitude, exemplary leadership, and a test of the limits of human endurance.

The story of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton is one of my all-time favorite things to read about. Naturally, when I saw a graphic novel about the Endurance’s voyage, I had to check it out. This is a fantastic addition to Shackleton literature, especially for anyone new to this story. There is an impressive amount of detail in the illustrations of each crew member, and Nick Bertozzi does an excellent job of capturing the mood of the story through with dialogue and captures instead of a narration. Shackleton is truly inspiring as a leader and the morale and comradery exhibited among the members of this expedition is incredible.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Traitor's Kiss

The Traitor's Kiss 
by Erin Beaty
Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, 2017. 344 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Sage Fowler is an orphan in her uncle’s house when one day she goes into his office and he tells her she is going to the matchmakers in order to be matched. Sage does not want to spend the rest of her days married to an aristocrat. She horribly botches the interview with the matchmaker and ends up having to go and apologize so as not to ruin her cousins chances of being matched with a suitable partner. When she does so she is hired as an apprentice matchmaker to help manage all the candidates for a matchmaking event that is held once every five years. Along the journey she becomes a spy for the army escorting their troop of girls to the nation’s capital.

It has been a long time since I have stayed up until five o’clock in the morning to finish a book. I loved the two main characters of the book, Sage and Ash were so engaging in how they went about finding the information on the various players in the schemes to upset the royal family from their position of power.


Arrows of the Queen

Arrows of the Queen 
by Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books, 1987. 320 pgs. Science Fiction

Talia has always dreamed of becoming a herald for the Queen, one day her wish comes true when the companion Rolan finds her; after she ran away from her village at the age of 13 when she did not want to marry or join the convent. Follow Talia as she strives to complete her Heralds training in spite of impossible odds.

 This book was so much fun to read I finished it in a day and promptly checked out the next two books in the series and I can't wait to finish them. Talia is an engaging heroine to read her views and perspectives. I LOVED her scenes in the book when she was dealing with the brat, the royal princess. It made me laugh so much. I enjoyed reading about her learning to trust the various members of the heralds and it was fantastic that the author made it a process instead of something the characters took for granted.


Ronit & Jamil

Ronit & Jamil
by Pamela L. Laskin
Katherine Tegen Books, 2017. 192 pages. Young Adult

A Romeo & Juliet retelling set in present-day Israel and Gaza, this novel in verse tells the forbidden romance of Ronit, an Israeli girl, and Jamil, a Palestinian boy. Separated by barriers of culture, political conflict, violence -and a 440 mile long, 11 miles wide concrete blockade  - these unlikely lovers cross paths when they accompany their fathers to work at a medical clinic. Despite all that stands between them, Ronit and Jamil's love grows, and so do the risks. Can love transcend generations of war and pain? What sacrifices will their love demand?

I'm a fan of novels written in verse and Shakespeare, so I was expecting quite a lot from this book. My favorite part of this Romeo & Juliet retelling is the setting; placing the story in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ramps up the tension and the danger. There's nothing trivial about Ronit and Jamil's situation; their confessional-style poems expound upon their families' expectations, their cultural and political differences, and the ever-present threat of violence (as punishment for their love or just getting caught in crossfire). Though a romance, this book is not so much a love story as a story about love in the face conflict and division. Less narrative than other books in verse (like Out of the Dust or The Crossover), there are some beautiful poems - I used so many post-its marking my favorite lines! I wish the author had made some different choices; sometimes it gets difficult to tell which poem is Ronit's voice and which is Jamil's, and in trying to show both sides as mirror-images/two sides of the same coin, the structure gets a bit repetitive. I'd recommend this to Shakespeare and poetry fans and anyone who wants a quick read that doesn't skimp on dramatic tension and thought-provoking content.


Saturday, December 30, 2017


by Meagan Spooner Harper Teen, 2017. 374 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Yeva’s family lives in town when disaster strikes and her family’s fortunes are lost to raiders and bandits, which means her family has to move to the woods and her father has to go back to hunting for their income. One day her father’s hound comes back without him and Yeva has to call on the training she received as a child to go find her father. Toward the end of her quarry she is captured by the Beast that she believes killed her father. Follow this Russian spin on the fairytale Beauty and the Beast.

I love Beauty and the Beast retellings; they are some of my favorite stories to read. I love the elements that the Russian background brings to the story. It also addressed one of the inconsistencies in the Russian fairy tales about Ivan who is often the hero of the story. I love that they mention Stockholm syndrome which is not commonly done in most of the stories. It was also fun to listen to the story, the readers did a beautiful job in their representation of the story and its elements.


Friday, December 29, 2017

The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast: Breads, Pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls & muffins

The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast: Breads, Pancakes, Waffles, Cinnamon Rolls, and Muffins
by Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson
Front Table Books, 2012. 163 pgs. Nonfiction

Baking your own bread has never been more nutritious or delicious! Natural yeast is full of amazing health benefits: it breaks down harmful enzymes in grains, prevents bread from spiking blood sugar, and makes nutrients more readily available for the body to absorb. This book explains the health benefits of naturally yeasted breads in easy to understand terms, and gives detailed instructions for using a yeast start and keeping it healthy.

The thing that really sold me on trying natural yeast is how the yeast is free forever. I had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to bake bread with natural yeast, even though it was a steep learning curve for me (I never made my own bread before trying this method.) Natural yeast is more like a sourdough start than the packets of yeast at the grocery store, so the process is a little different. Once I got it figured out, the results were fantastic! Not to mention all the health benefits discussed by the authors. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in making bread, or who is looking for a yummy and healthy alternative to white bread.


Friday, December 22, 2017

George Washington's Secret Six: the Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution

George Washington's Secret Six: the Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution
By Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager
Sentinel, 2013. 235 pgs. Nonfiction

We've all heard of Nathan Hale, who only survived 24 hours as a spy for George Washington, and Benedict Arnold, the American general who secretly conspired to turn the fort at West Point over to the British.  But mostly unknown to history are the American spies in New York who risked everything during the British occupation to send important information to Washington about British troop movements and other essential information  The authors trace the identities and activities of the secret Culper spy ring, demonstrating the vital role they played in helping the colonies to win the American Revolution.  This is an exciting and accessible account of little known events in history. SH

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Love and Other Consolation Prizes

Love and Other Consolation Prizes
by Jamie Ford
Ballangine Books, 2017, 307 pgs.  Historical Fiction

Jamie Ford finds little known facts from the Northwest and writes wonderful historical fiction that brings them to life.  In Love and Other Consolation Prizes he used the 1909 Seattle worlds’ fair, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo to bring Seattle to life at the turn of the century.  Ernest Young, a half-Chinese orphan, is donated by a wealthy sponsor as a raffle prize at the Expo.  He is “won” by the madam of a notorious brothel who puts him to work cleaning and helping keep the house in order.  This unlikely sequence of events places Ernest in the most stable home he has ever known and he soon befriends the owner’s daughter along with one of the kitchen girls.

While not my favorite of Ford’s works, I enjoyed the obscure Seattle history and glimpses into a very different sort of lifestyle.  So often, the underbelly of society is overlooked making it easy to forget that people are people and we are all just trying to make the most of the situations we are given.  As always, readers of Ford’s books will enjoy the vibrant descriptions of Pacific Northwest and an engaging story.


Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours
By Lisa Wingate
Ballantine Books, 2017. 342 pgs. Historical Fiction

Rill Foss’s parents leave her in charge of her four siblings on their family shantyboat when her mother’s labor stops progressing normally.  While they are gone, all five children are pulled from the only home they have ever known and sent to the care of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.  While in the orphanage, the children will suffer a variety of abuses until some are adopted by wealthy couples unaware that they have loving parents still searching for them.

This story is based on the infamous adoption scam run by Georgia Tann.  Hundreds of children are believed to have died in her care and hundreds more were kidnapped to feed her orphanages that catered to the rich and famous.  Wingate tells the story of the fictional Foss children while alternating from a present day story to one occurring to Rill in 1939.  The history behind this novel makes it a must for historical fiction fans and the wonderful storytelling makes it a must for everyone else.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Dam Keeper

The Dam Keeper
By Robert Kondo
First Second, 2017. 153 Pages.

Life in Sunrise Valley is tranquil, but beyond its borders lies certain death. A dangerous black fog looms outside the village but its inhabitants are kept safe by an ingenious machine known as the dam. Pig's father built the dam, taught him how to maintain it, and then walked into the fog never to be seen again. Now Pig is the dam keeper, with few aware of his efforts other than Fox, his best friend, and Hippo, the town bully. Now, with a tidal wave of black fog descending on Sunrise Valley, Pig, Fox, and Hippo must face the greatest danger imaginable: the world on the other side of the dam.

This book serves as a sequel to a short film and the first book of a series. As such, it's in an interesting place, with characters having an established background but the story just starting and ending with a cliffhanger. However, don't let that deter you from getting this book. The world and characters are interesting and introduced well enough that I never felt like I was coming in at the middle. Pig is a truly sympathetic character, which made me really want him to find happiness. What's more, this book is worth looking over just for the beautiful artwork. It's definitely a worthwhile book to pick up and read, with a story and dialogue being age appropriate for anyone in the family. 

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal 
By Mary Roach 
W.W. Norton & Company, 2013. 348 pages. 

The human digestive system is probably not on your list of daily contemplations, but it is a necessary and fascinating part of the human body that often gets overlooked. In this engaging journey from beginning to (rear) end, Roach entertains the reader with the elusive world of corporate taste-testers, the amazing stomach-stretching capacity of competitive eaters, the history of flatulence, prison “wallets,” and much more. 

Mary Roach, author of best-seller Stiff, has a knack for turning taboo subjects into best-selling books. Roach gratuitously pokes fun at the uncomfortable ick factor of her topic of research, and never fails to thrill the reader with her detail. Though she may appear to veer off topic at times, Roach always makes up for it with bizarre anecdotes and witty humor (oh, the puns). Her research takes her to eccentric scientists that study the mysteries of saliva, intestinal gas, and fecal implants, thus grounding this wild ride in actual (if weird) science. If your inner child loves Ripley’s Believe it or Not, or any kind of gross-out educational material, Mary Roach has got you covered. 


Monday, December 18, 2017

Hit the Ground Running

Hit the Ground Running
By Alison Hughes
Orca Book Publishers, 2017. 205 pgs,  Young Adult

Dee is freaking out! Her dad, an antiques dealer, left and hasn't yet returned. He's been gone for almost six weeks now and Dee doesn't know what to do. Social Services has started coming around and Dee is scared that they are going to take her and Eddie, her seven-year-old brother, to different foster homes.

Dee decides that her only option is to flee their small desert town in Arizona for their aunt's house in Canada. So what if their car is seriously old and the fact that Dee doesn't have a driver's license. This is an emergency! So begins Dee and Eddie's epic road trip from Arizona to Alberta, Canada.

This book was very fast paced. You could feel the tension building as Dee struggles to figure out how to best deal with this situation. I read this book in one sitting because I just had to know how it would turn out!


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Age of Myth

Age of Myth
By Michael Sullivan
Del Rey, 2016. 409 pages. Fantasy

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.

Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.

This is the first  book of a pretty traditional high fantasy series. As a fan of the genre, I appreciated the notes that the author hit, though I did feel like it made the book a little more predictable. The characters are enjoyable and interesting, and the plot is fast-paced. The stakes are fairly small in this book, but the battle scenes are well depicted, which makes me look forward to the prospects of a full on war in the next books.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
By Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster, 2017. 325 pages. Young Adult

Jenny Han surprised fans when she revealed that she would be writing a concluding third novel to her duology that follows the life of craft-loving, wistful Korean-American Lara Jean Covey Song. Now in her senior year, life is looking pretty good. She and her boyfriend are in love, her widower dad is finally getting re-married, and college acceptance letters are coming in the next few weeks.

Never comfortable with change, Lara Jean is happy to attend nearby University of Virginia with her boyfriend. But change is looming on the horizon. When she doesn’t get in to UV, Lara Jean is forced to confront difficult life choices and is confused between choosing what her heart is saying or her head. And what does this all mean her relationship with her boyfriend?

It is always delight see the world through Lara Jean’s eyes, so I was excited to pick up this third book after P.S. I Still Love You. Lara Jean is an insightful and authentic character, and I have enjoyed reading about her journey from child to adult. This is a satisfying conclusion, but if you’re like me, it may leave you wishing to know more about what happens to Lara Jean at college and beyond.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Feral Youth

Feral Youth
By Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, 2017. 310 pgs. Young Adult

Ten teens have been sent to a tough summer camp meant to help them get their life back in order before they end up in juvie, or worse. The culminating camp experience is when they are blindfolded and driven out to a remote location in the woods. They have three days to make it back to camp, completely on their own. With their survival skills put to the test, tensions start to run high as their hunger, exhaustion, and general discomfort increases. To pass the time and create a semblance of unity, they have a story telling competition. The stories are varied, but show that perhaps these teens are less “feral” and more deliberate and justified than society believes.

This collection of short stories was inspired by Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and each story was written by a different author, making the individual voices and storytelling styles that much more distinct. Even with that, it worked extremely well felt like a cohesive whole. The stories touched on a lot of sensitive social issues (bullying, sexuality, assault, etc.), and did so in a way that felt realistic. Youth are too often painted in a negative light, but this collection shows how misleading a label or singular action can be. Overall I quite enjoyed the book and really appreciated the different perspectives.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Far From the Tree

Cover image for Far from the tree
Far from the Tree
By Robin Benway
Harper Teen, 2017, 374 pages, Young Adult

When Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, ends up having to give up her own daughter to adoption, she begins to wonder about her biological family. Soon she meets her biological siblings, Maya and Joaquin, and Grace discovers that she’s not alone. Together the three help each other through tough trials, and try to find out what happened to their birth mother.

The themes used in Far From the Tree could easily make this book veer into After School Special territory. It discusses tough issues like teen pregnancy, adoption, life in the foster care system, alcoholism, bullying, and divorce. The thing that keeps this book from being a complete downer is that it also covers themes such as the power of love and the strength of family. The story is told from the point of view of three different characters, and while I liked some of them more than others, each character felt fully fleshed-out and well formed. I found myself pretty engrossed in the story, and read with almost perpetually misty eyes. To me, Robin Benway has hit on the same formula that made books like Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars so powerful. It’s no wonder that this book was just awarded the prestigious National Book Award!


Friday, December 8, 2017

Sourdough: a Novel

Sourdough: a Novel
By Robin Sloan
MCD, 2017. 272 pgs. Fiction

Robin Sloan's new novel, Sourdough, is a delightful blend of magical realism, quirky characters, high tech, and a very special sourdough start.  Lois Clary works at a San Francisco tech company where many of the programmers exist by eating (actually slurping) a nutritive gel named Slurry. She discovers a local restaurant that delivers sourdough bread and delicious spicy food.  When the restaurant closes and the owners leave Lois their sourdough start to tend she begins to bake.  Mastering the magic of mixing flour, water and sourdough starter, she shares the delicious bread with co-workers and then looks for a venue to sell bread through one of San Francisco's many farmers markets. She ends up with a stall at a high-tech food emporium where the vendors are all experimenting with innovative food formulations.  As the new market nears its opening day, complications arise when Lois researches the history of her unique sourdough starter and begins to understand its microbial complexity.

Sloan's novel is both fluffy and fulfilling.  You will want to have a loaf of really good bread on hand when you sit down to read it. SH

Monday, December 4, 2017

Midnight at the Electric

Cover image for Midnight at the Electric
Midnight at the Electric
By Jodi Lynn Anderson
Harper Teen, 2017, 257 pages, Young Adult

Kansas, 2065. Adri has secured a slot as a Colonist--one of the lucky few handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate ... Oklahoma, 1934. Amid the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine fantasizes about her family's farmhand, and longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called the Electric. But as her family's situation becomes more dire, Catherine must finally separate illusion from reality and sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most. England, 1919. Lenore struggles with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. While their stories span thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri's fates are entwined in ways both heart-breaking and hopeful.

This book reminded me a lot of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith in that it’s beautifully written, mostly in the format of letters and journal entries. Anderson’s settings and characters are written with loving detail, which is a pretty amazing feat given the format. I read this book a few months ago, but I can still conjure up memories of the beautiful way Anderson describes the choking horror of the Dust Bowl, and the utter loss Lenore feels for her brother. While Adri’s storyline isn’t quite as strong as the other two, it helps tie everything together in a unique and hopeful way. Overall, this ends up being a story about love and the power of friendship and family.  Those who read this book are in for a treat!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Door to January

The Door to January
By Gillian French
Islandport Press, 2017. 193 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Ever since she moved away from her hometown of Bernier, Main, Natalie has been having repetitive nightmares, nightmares that center on an old house in Bernier. When she goes back to visit in the summer, she’s trying to both figure out what the nightmares mean, and face the reason she left Bernier in the first place. With the help of her cousin, Teddy, Natalie makes some startling discoveries about the house, the people who lived there, and some of her repressed memories.

With multiple stories being told, in a book this short every word has to count. Right from the start there’s a lot going on, and it can be hard to keep up. Initially things felt a little clunky and disjointed, but as the setting and backstory were introduced it started feeling more cohesive. Finally it became a decent paranormal-thriller that kept me reading past my bedtime. That being said, some of the dialog felt overly contrived, and while I liked the characters, they didn’t necessarily feel real. I could recommend this for those looking for a shorter book, and who care more about an interesting, suspenseful, paranormal story, rather than rock solid writing.


American Wolf

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
By Nate Blakeslee
Crown Publishers, 2017. 300 pgs. Nonfiction

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 and since then, park rangers and conservationists have been watching and tracking individual wolves and wolf packs throughout the Rockies.  Using this data so meticulously collected, Blakeslee has written the dramatic story of O-Six, a large, clever alpha female who reigned the Lamar Valley.  But the story of this beloved wolf cannot be told without also introducing wolf watcher Laurie Lyman and park wildlife expert Rick McIntyre who together helped to build O-Six's the celebrity and use her life to argue the case for keeping wolves on the endangered species list and safe from hunters determined to keep their numbers low.

American Wolf  is written with a wonderful pace and inspired passion.  The plight of the wolves is carefully described, but the author also attempts to describe the arguments of the ranchers and hunters who feel no love for the creatures. The author is definitely biased for the wolves, but admirably manages to keep the other side from being vilified.  Perfect reading for animal and nature lovers...also for anyone who just wants a good true story. 


Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo
By George Saunders
Random House, 2017. 341 pgs. Fiction

The bardo refers to the state of existence between life and death.  Souls who wish to postpone departing this world for the next linger in the bardo and it is here that Willie Lincoln, young son of Abraham Lincoln, finds himself following a deadly case of typhoid fever.  In the graveyard he encounters a cast of ghosts all avoiding the "matterlightbooming" phenomenon for their own diverse reasons.  President Lincoln's visit to his son's mausoleum causes such an uproar in the usually quiet graveyard that few souls will survive the night unaffected. 

This is not a necessarily easy read, though it can be a quick read thanks to the script like formatting the author has chosen.  What makes Lincoln in the Bardo difficult is that it is just bizarre and the style definitely takes some getting used to.  I began by listening to the audiobook, which has an all-star cast including Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Don Cheadle, Bill Hader, Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, and Ben Stiller.  How could you go wrong listening to this?  I'm not sure I know the answer but it did not work for me.  It was disjointed and confusing and I eventually switched to the print version to see if it was better.  Maybe I should have stuck with the audio for a bit longer, but by the end of the print version of the novel, I was a bit awestruck by its depth and beauty.  This may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for something that takes a bit of work and leaves you with plenty to think about, this may be just the thing.


Alex and Eliza: a love story

Alex and Eliza : a love story:
by Melissa De La Cruz
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2017. 358 pages. Young Adult Fiction.

Alexander Hamilton is the dashing young secretary of General George Washington on an errand to deliver unfortunate wartime news to 'General" Schuyler, patriarch of New York's prominent families and father to three spunky and beautiful girls. Alex's message delivery happens to be upon the night of a ball hosted by the Schuyler family, highlighting their eligible daughters. Eliza Schuyler is the feisty, patriotic, practical, middle child who catches Alex's eye with her witty banter and pretty looks. Years laters happenstance brings the two together again and their love story begins in earnest.

Alex and Eliza is a wonderful fictional story about two people that defy all odds to be together. Their matching wit, intellect and desire to serve the new nation during the Revolutionary War is inspiring. This is a engaging and cute love story, even though it's a bit predictable, I loved seeing how it all unfolds. It's a character-driven plot that keeps you reading quickly. If you have an interest in historical fiction and romance, the American Revolution time period, or all the Hamilton hype, this book is for you.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017


by Louis Sachar
New York, Straus and Giroux, 2008. 265pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Due to the curse that his no good dirty rotten pig stealin great great grandfather got cast on the members of his family, Stanley Yelnats is being sent to a miserable correctional camp in Green Lake, Texas for a crime he didn’t commit. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time just like every other member of his family. In this miserable camp in Texas Stanley discovers his first real friend and a new sense of self.

I love Holes it has been one of my favorite books for a very long time. This book is one of the few books to movies where both formats were absolutely fantastic. Stanley starts out as an unlucky nobody and overtime and through finding a true friend amazing things happen. This is a book that I read very frequently and it makes me happy every time.


Stripling Warrior

Stripling Warrior 
by Kathi Oram Peterson
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017. 257 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Sydney Morgan after barely surviving the battle of Cumeni is reunited with her comrade Tarik. Shortly after the battle she, Tarik, and Ozi and sent on a perilous mission to go find Captain Moroni and ask him for reinforcements. Follow Sydney as she fights to go back to the time she is from and survive this ancient world.

I waited for almost a decade for this book due to publication issues. I loved finally having a conclusion to a story I have been waiting for a very long time. I loved the end of the story I loved how Sydney developed over the course of the story. I found the characters compelling and it was fun seeing the author's perspective on ancient life.