Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Mother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother

Mother's Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother
by Rachel Hunt Steenblik
Salt Lake City, UT : BCC press, [2017]. 177 pages. Nonfiction.
In this warm new collection of poems, Rachel Hunt Steenblik (Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings) explores the deep, human longing for a divine mother that many dream of knowing.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I was curious, and being a new mother myself wanted to read something about mothers and motherhood. This book struck a chord within me that no other book has ever reached before. These thoughts, ideas, and words on a Heavenly Mother feel so familiar and intimate, especially because I am a mother. I would recommend this book to mothers and those who are interested in learning more about Heavenly Mother in Latter-day Saint doctrine. 

NS

Love from A to Z


Love from A to Z
by S.K Ali
Salaam Reads, 2019. 342 pages, Young Adult Fiction.

Zayneb, a fiery and passionate girl with an activist heart, and Adam, a sensitive and introspective boy, both find themselves spending their vacations in Doha, Qatar at the same time. Through some serendipitous meet-cute scenarios, the two continue to cross paths and decide that, though they are both dealing with some issues in their personal lives, that doesn’t mean that love can't also factor in.

A refreshing and original love story about two Muslim teens who court one another while adhering to their cultural and religious norms. I learned a lot about what that entails, loved being immersed in their world, and seeing Doha through their eyes. I also appreciated reading a YA book where the characters are not at odds with their parents, but where all family relations appeared loving and supportive through life's struggles as teen learn to navigate the world around them. A very sweet and clean read for fans of YA romance.

RC

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Slave Stealers: true accounts of slave rescues then and now

Slave Stealers: true accounts of slave rescues then and now
By Timothy Ballard
Shadow Mountain, 2018. 254 pages. Nonfiction

Although they have lived centuries apart, two stories come together about fighting the evils of slavery and sex trafficking. Told in alternating chapters are the stories of Harriet Jacobs, a brave African-American Woman born into slavery in North Carolina in 1813, and Timothy Ballard, a former special agent for the Department of Homeland Security and now the founder of the modern "underground railroad", an organization called Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R). Ballard tells the story of how Harriett never lost faith or courage to win her freedom and how her example has provided the blueprint he needed to start O.U.R and save the slaves in the modern world.

This is a wonderful book that I highly recommend to everyone. Timothy Ballard does a wonderful job in the writing and weaving stories together. It gets you hooked and you don't want to put the book down. He shines a light into the darkest part of American History at the same time opening the world's eyes to the biggest evils committed today. It goes beyond race, culture, and religion to show the brave men and women, both past and present, standing up for what is right and who serve their fellow man. Despite the darkness that is human trafficking and the slave trade, the book offers hope and inspires an individual to get involved and help those that are in need, especially those in dire circumstances.

ME

Sick Kids in Love

Sick Kids in Love 
by Hannah Moskowitz
Entangled Teen, 2019. 317 pages. Young Adult

Isabel is sick. But she’s not the kind of sick that is obvious. She still goes to school. She volunteers at her dad’s hospital. She also writes an advice column for her school. She also just happens to have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Then she meets Sasha, a totally cute, and totally sick boy. He also has an invisible chronic illness, Gaucher disease. He seems to understand her better than her healthy friends. He gets it when she has to cancel plans; he understands the feeling of being different. Isabel is totally into Sasha. The only problem is that she has this rule. This no dating rule. She made it before she met Sasha. She made it to protect people from herself. But now she has Sasha in her life and breaking her one rule seems more than possible, it seems inevitable.

This book has a cute love story, but it is so much more than that. It has great representation. Sasha and Isabel have invisible illnesses, but they are characterized as more than just their physical and mental states. Both have deep family issues to deal with while navigating a new relationship. They also have to deal with friends who don't understand, school, and all the pressures of trying to get into a good school for college, all while dealing with chronic pain and tiredness. The issues that teens go through are tenderly portrayed without being too Mary Sue. This book is recommended as part of a growing genre of Sick Kid Lit that includes John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, and Jesse Andrews’s Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.

AGP

Thursday, January 16, 2020

White Rose


White Rose
by Kip Wilson
Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 358 pages, Young Adult.

German Sophie Scholl isn’t happy about the ways her country is changing on the brink of war. She sees her brothers and friends enlist and fight, but she doesn’t understand or support what is tearing her nation apart and feels there must be something she can do to lift her voice against the injustices happening around her. When she finds a secret resistance group who take up letter writing campaigns criticizing the Nazis and calling for action against them, she knows this is something she needs to be involved with, no matter the consequences.

A novel in verse, White Rose is a captivating and unique historical fiction about a real, lesser known resistance group during World War II. This book, about a brave group who stood up for their beliefs against a tyrannical government, is a timely reminder that injustice doesn’t have to be accepted silently, and that even the smallest of us can use our voices for change.


RC

The Art of Being Normal

The Art of Being Normal
By Lisa Williamson
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. 334 pages. Young Adult

David Piper has always been an outsider with a big secret: since he was a child, David has wanted to be a girl. New student Leo Denton has a secret of his own, and his goal of keeping a low profile starts to go south when he attracts the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But when David's secret gets out, things get very complicated for both of them. David struggles to find support as he prepares to come out and transition: to find a new name and begin living a truth that has been kept secret for too long.

I would highly recommend this uplifting coming-of-age novel to cisgender readers -- people who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth -- who want to learn more about gender identity and what it means to be transgender, as well as the unique challenges placed before trans youth. While Williamson doesn't sugarcoat the harsh realities of being a trans teen, the overall message is one of hope, with the feeling that even if you can’t get everything you want, you can get what you need.

DT

Horrorstör

Horrorstör
By Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books, 2014. 243 pages. Horror

Weird things are happening at the Cleveland branch of Orsk, a fictional budget version of IKEA. Employees find damaged and destroyed items, but security footage reveals nothing out of the ordinary. With sales falling and managers panicking, three employees volunteer to work a dusk-till-dawn shift in hopes of catching the perpetrator. But their patrols in the dead of night reveal strange sights and sounds, and horrors that defy the imagination.

This book is formatted like a mail order catalog, including product illustrations and a home delivery form, which adds to the charm. Hendrix breaks the mold of the decaying, overgrown, crumbling haunted house and recasts it in a clean, brightly-lit, soulless contemporary setting. The fast pace of this story keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps the pages turning quickly. Bear in mind -- this book can get a bit gruesome, and it's not for the squeamish.

DT

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Wonder Woman: Warbringer 
By Leigh Bardugo
DC Comics, 2020. 208 pgs. Young Adult Comics

Themyscira is home to the Amazons, a group of women earned their place on the island while mortal warriors and who bear the duty of protecting peace. All except Diana, who despite being the daughter of the Queen, was fashioned from clay on the island. She longs to prove herself, but when she rescues Alia, a mortal, she might be risking everything. Diana just wants to get her home, but soon learns that Alia is a Warbringer, descendant of Helen of Troy, and destined to usher in an age of war and destruction.

This was a fantastic graphic novel adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer. Because so much of the story is told through graphics, I felt that the story went much faster and was more exciting and action-packed. The characters are diverse, richly detailed, and interesting with struggles that are authentic and relatable. The story is about finding your place in the world amidst trials and challenges, and relying on your friendships during those times. This is a great graphic novel and I would suggest it for anyone who likes superheroes, strong female characters, or a good friendship story.

TT

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Cover image for This is how you lose the time war
This Is How You Lose the Time War
by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Saga Press, 2019, 198 pages, Science Fiction

Red and Blue are highly skilled time travel agents who represent opposing sides of a war that’s been waging for millennia. Their job is to alter both the past and the future in order to stop the opposing side from gaining access to technology that will help them win the war. When Blue leaves an intriguing note for Red with the intention of playing mind games, Red answers back in kind. So begins a correspondence between enemies that slowly morphs into something more. If Red and Blue’s secret friendship is discovered, it could mean death for them both.

This epistolary novel is a quick read, but the relationship between Red and Blue still grows slowly and organically. Red and Blue bond over discussions of their favorite time periods and comparisons of different timeline versions of world leaders. Soon they start revealing secrets they wouldn’t tell to anyone else, all while burying their letters from prying eyes in things like the pattern of a seal’s fur and in the taste of an apple seed. Although the story unwinds slowly, the conclusion is desperate and fast-paced as both Red and Blue frantically try to protect the other from the wrath of their respective leaders.

El-Mohtar and Gladstone have created a beautifully written novel that will stick with me for some time. Although this is science fiction, those who enjoy literary fiction will find a lot to like here as well.

MB

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan 
by Jenny Nordberg 
Crown Publishers, 2014. 350 pgs. Nonfiction

 Journalist Jenny Nordberg investigates a little known practice in Afghanistan of bacha posh, or presenting a girl child as a boy, usually until just before puberty. To the Western world, this practice seems bizarre, but within the cultural context of highly patriarchal Afghanistan it makes sense to Afghans. In Afghanistan, even a pretend son is better than no son at all. But why is this a practice in Afghan culture? What happens to these girls when they approach puberty and need to transition to acting like a girl? Nordberg finds answers to these questions and more in this fascinating examination of present day Afghanistan.

 The information presented here is fascinating by itself, but what really makes this book excellent and engaging is the narrative-styled presentation. It's not a report, we as readers get to travel with the author on her journey of discovery and I love that style of nonfiction. I think anyone could enjoy this book, but I would especially recommend it to someone interested in women or gender studies, or those looking for a close-up view of a culture different than their own.

ER

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Exhalation

Exhalation
by Ted Chiang
Alfred A. Knopf, 2019, 350 pages, Science Fiction

This fascinating collection of science fiction short stories tackles questions such as, what is the nature of the universe? what does it mean to be human? and what would you do if you could travel through time? In the titular story, an alien learns grave news that will affect the outcome of his people. In another, a woman with a robotic pet debates about the characteristics that make someone human. In yet another, people confront moral dilemmas when they get the opportunity to speak to other versions of themselves in different timelines.

I’m not a big fan of science fiction or of short stories, but this collection had me hooked. Each story went in directions I didn’t anticipate, and asked questions I didn’t expect to confront in such engaging stories. The characters in each of Chiang’s stories are interesting and sympathetic, and they have multiple layers. It wasn’t until after I’d read these stories that I learned a different short story of Chiang’s was the inspiration of the movie Arrival, but it definitely makes sense. Beautifully written and captivating, this is a great book for those who like reading fiction that ponders deep questions in an approachable manner.

MB

Monday, January 6, 2020

Entertaining with Disney: Exceptional Events from Mickey Mouse to Moana!

Entertaining with Disney: Exceptional Events from Mickey Mouse to Moana! 
By Amy Croushorn
Insight Editions, 2019. 189 pgs. Nonfiction

Do you love all things Disney? Would your sister be thrilled with a Lion King baby shower? Then this might be the perfect book for you. Create magical and memorable events ranging from Halloween pumpkin carving, elegant dinner parties, and fun birthday gatherings. With 11 chapters focused on unique parties based on classic Disney characters, there is something for just about everyone. Each chapter includes three main sections: For the Menu, For the Space, and For Fun, as well as a guide for putting it all together, starting two weeks ahead of the party and ending with the start of the party. With a sophistication and simple elegance, these parties are sure to delight both children and adults. 

With beautiful pictures and fun party ideas, this book is worth a peruse, even if you never plan a party from it. My favorite thing was the customization that is available for each party. It would be easy to switch around characters to fit different needs and use only some of the ideas for a simpler bash. The timeline is great and breaks everything down into manageable steps without feeling overwhelming. I wanted to spend hours just looking at the pictures and finding supplies online. I would suggest this book to anyone who loves Disney, party planning, or wants to add some sophistication to your next gathering.

 TT

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Skyward (Vol. 1): My Low-G Life

Skyward (Vol. 1): My Low-G Life
Author: Joe Henderson, Artist: Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela
Image Comics, 2018. 136 pages. Graphic Novel

Twenty years after Earth's gravity mysteriously reduced to a fraction of its normal strength, Willa Fowler can't help but love flying. With no gravity to hold her down, Willa flies in, around, and between the skyscrapers of Chicago to deliver messages and other items. But it's not all fun and games, lower gravity has made the sky the most dangerous place in the world. Debris from the initial event liters the sky, making airplanes impossible. Storms make giant balls of water hover in the sky, a trap that anyone can drown in if they aren't careful. For Willa, the dangers are worth it. For her father, not so much. But her father has more than a fear of the sky, he has a secret that goes back to before gravity changed, a secret that will lead to Willa being labeled a terrorist, a folk hero, and an invader. Her father's secret will lead her on an adventure that will make her life look like she'd been doing nothing but floating in place.

For those that like tales of self-discovery with a flavor of science fiction, this book is for you.

-SMM

Skyward

Skyward
Brandon Sanderson
Delecorte Press, 2018. 528 pages. Young Adult.

Spensa has always wanted to be a pilot. On her planet, pilots protect the last of humanity against constant attack, alien star fighters appearing frequently to bomb and destroy whatever Spensa's society has tried to build. Spensa's father was a pilot, and she can't imagine doing anything else. Spensa's father is also known as a traitor. Spensa must navigate her complicated past in order to prove her loyalty to humankind, all the while trying to repair an ancient space ship she finds in a cave. Spensa will find out that her world is far larger and more sinister than a ship in a cave or a society that doesn't want her. In her quest to prove everyone wrong (about both her and her father), she'll discover what really holds humanity to a rocky planet that can barely support life.

Sanderson's newest foray into Young Adult fiction holds true to his style of intricate systems, great characters, and incredibly satisfying twists.

-SMM

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hot Dog Girl

Hot Dog Girl
By Jennifer Dugan
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 311 pages. Young Adult

Elouise (Lou) Parker loves Magic Castle Playland. The small amusement park has played a major role in her childhood, so when she’s finally able to start working there as a teen, she’s disappointed to be assigned as the giant dancing hot dog. Still, she gets to ogle her guy crush, Diving Pirate Nick, though he already has a girlfriend, the Princess of the park. Soon she has a scheme to get Nick’s attention, but her best friend Seeley doesn’t quite seem on board like she usually is. Still, Lou is determined to have her summer of romance, though it won’t turn out the way she expects.

Lou is determined that everyone should have their happily ever after, but her one-track-mind seems oblivious to things that, as a reader, were quite obvious early on. It didn’t ruin the story for me, but it was a mildly irritating character flaw. While I found the story to be a cute fluffy romance, it also felt a bit like a soap opera.

I listened to the downloadable audiobook of this title and really enjoyed it. Sometimes text conversations can be difficult to follow at 2x speed audio, but it was actually enjoyable with little dings to signify new messages, and clear voice changes from the narrator. Very well done.

ACS

The Downstairs Girl

The Downstairs Girl
By Stacey Lee
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. 374 pages. Young Adult

Set in 1890s Atlanta, Georgia, Jo Kuan strives to work hard and make the most of her life. When she’s let go from a job because of her Chinese heritage, she accepts a position as a lady’s maid to one of her former bullies. By day her life is rough, but by night she writes for the local newspaper as Miss Sweetie, a presumed genteel southern woman with all the answers to society’s questions.

Jo is a strong, witty protagonist, always looking for ways to do and say what she feels is right and necessary. This was a fun read, and while I’ve read many books in the past with characters who face racism, I felt like this one stood out in a good way. There are multiple plot lines lead back to the main story, providing added depth and dimension to the setting and cast of characters. I tend to have a hard time enjoying historical fiction, but this book was so compelling, and Jo is so spunky, that I really enjoyed it. If you enjoyed the themes and characters in LITTLE WHITE LIES or PRIDE , this is another one to check out.

ACS

Friday, December 27, 2019

Lovely War

Lovely War
by Julie Berry
Viking Books, 2019. 480 pages. Young Adult

Confronted by her jealous husband, the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, pleads her case before the gods with a story of her greatest triumph - the love and friendship of two couples, whose paths cross in the midst of World War I. Shy Hazel, a pianist, charms a dreamer named James while performing at a dance just days before he's shipped off to the trenches. Inspired to do her part, Hazel joins a volunteer corps she meets Colette, who suffered devastating loss in her Belgian village. Stationed at an American encampment, the women meet Aubrey Edwards, a spectacular musician in the 15th New York Infantry, whose music comes alive when Colette sings along. In the face of violence, tragedy, and danger from "friends" and foes alike, these four are living proof that even the rage of war is no match for the power of love.

Julie Berry is a master of historical fiction writing. Wonderfully researched, she weaves a compelling romance in with the devastation of World War I. Not only will you feel completely immersed in the year 1917, and intimately acquainted with the four young heroes, you'll learn about the legendary 15th New York Infantry, the all-african american regiment who bolstered allied spirits with jazz and ragtime, and faced the dangers of the battlefield as well as prejudice and violence at the hands of fellow American soldiers. I cried more than once listening to this beautiful book. Besides excellent performances by multiple readers (each of the four lovers and Greek gods has their own voice!), the audiobook includes music as well!

MW

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Travel Home: Design with a Global Spirit

Travel Home: Design with a Global Spirit 
By Caitlin Flemming and Julie Goebel
Abrams Image, 2019, 286 pgs. Nonfiction

Explore the homes of 20 sophisticated designers who are deeply influenced by their international travels. Learn how to curate your home to reflect your favorite places and experiences from around the globe. The 20 homes are divided into 6 thematic sections, such as Textiles & Textures, Zen Simplicity, Natural Elements, and Found Objects. In addition to the short biographical section, there are beautiful pictures of the designers’ homes and a Q&A section for each about their favorite vacations, travel style, and favorite markets. This book reveals how we can take inspiration from the beauty in the world and bring it into our daily lives.

The cover of this book is what caused an immediate interest. Each of the designers and homes featured are unique and focus on one or two types of objects. I found lots of beautiful items that I would love to have in my own home, and learned a new tips for buying on trips.

I felt like most of the homes were too pristine and would not function for a family with children. Only one of the homes featured showed any spaces for children, which was one of my favorite rooms. I found the suggestions on how to use souvenirs in your home the most useful, especially the collecting textiles and styling a bookcase. This is a beautiful book with unique interiors that evoke a multitude of cultures and styles. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys interior design, traveling, or collecting.

TT

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Royal Target

Royal Target (Royal #1)
By Traci Hunter Abramson
Covenant Communication, 2008. 257 pages, Romance

When CIA agent Janessa Rogers meets the royal family of Meridia on assignment, she expects to use her skills in linguistics and security detail to protect and serve, but she doesn't expect to find herself engaged to Prince Garrett Fortier, Meridia's most eligible bachelor, as part of the security plan. And she certainly doesn't expect to fall in love with him.

Traci blends the perfect cloak and dagger story that keeps you guessing with a sweet and clean romance that leaves you feeling warm and cozy. It is a great blend of royalty and espionage and I was hooked from the very beginning. The story moved at a great pace and there were small pieces of the puzzle along the way that kept me engaged. For anyone who is interested in action as well as romance this is for you.

The audio for this book is amazing. Taking place in a small country near France and Italy means a lot of foreign accents. The narrator, Kimberly Christenson, does a wonderful job of capturing the different accents that many of the characters have which brought them to life even more and made reading the book even more enjoyable.

ME


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Turn of the Key

Cover image for The turn of the key
The Turn of the Key
by Ruth Ware
Scout Press, 2019, 336 pages, Mystery

Rowan Caine has a perfectly good job in London, but when she learns of a live-in nannying position with an overly generous salary, she feels she’s destined to apply. Although the position is in a very remote area of the Scottish Highlands, and Rowan will have to spend the first weeks with absolutely no help while the children’s parents attend a work expo, Rowan feels up to the task. But when strange and menacing things begin to happen, Rowan’s nerves start fraying. It all comes to a climax one night, when a child ends up dead and Rowan finds herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

This update to Henry James’ classic ghost story The Turn of the Screw builds suspense slowly, but that makes the ending even more devastating. Instead of spirits wandering the house, a fully wired smart home that Rowan’s unused to operating helps create the creepy ambience.

The story is told in a series of letters written by Rowan while she’s in prison awaiting trial. As she pleads her case to an attorney who might be able to help her, most of her closest secrets are kept until the very end, with shocking results. If you’re a fan of modern ghost stories or if you like mystery stories that take sudden and unexpected turns, Ruth Ware’s newest book is perfect for you!

MB

Monday, December 16, 2019

Truckus Maximus

Truckus Maximus
by Scott Peterson
First Second, 2019. 288 pgs. Young Adult Comics

In a near-future world where the Roman Empire still reigns supreme, modern-day gladiators race monster trucks on reality TV. This race to the death is called Truckus Maximus, and the best of the best is Axl, the young leader of team Apollo. He lives for two things, honor and the Game, but his strict moral code will be tested by Caesar, ruler of the Empire, and the Dominus, the absolute master of the Game. Will Axl finally get everything that he has always wanted, or will he realize that some things are more important than honor or the Game?

This was a fun, adrenaline high, action-packed book. The illustrations are gritty and intense, with a full range of colors that evoke a dystopian world. The plot is quick moving, with training montages and a climatic race to the finish. The characters are lovable, quirky, and authentic, and the story is a great modern take on the Roman Empire and gladiators. If you love adventure, racing, monster trucks, or gritty illustrations and characters, this is a perfect book for you.

TT

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Thunderhead

Thunderhead
By Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 504 pgs. Young Adult

In this sequel to Scythe, Citra, now known as Scythe Anastasia, gleans with care and compassion. She openly challenges the "new order" scythes who enjoy killing and have little regard for the rules. When her life is threatened, it becomes clear that someone wants to stop her.

Rowan has been off grid for a year. During that time he has become a vigilante and a legend as he works to stop corrupt scythes. The Thunderhead is a perfect ruler of a supposedly perfect world but it must watch as that perfect world begins to unravel.

Sometimes the second book in a three book series is there to fill the space but it isn't a very strong story. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman is the exact opposite. This story moves quickly and adds new levels to the characters. The ending....I wish I could say more! The ending left me in shock! Through an unexpected chain of events everything changes in the last few pages of the book. I am so glad the third book finally came out so that I can finish this amazing series.

AL


Friday, December 13, 2019

The Lost Girls of Paris

The Lost Girls of Paris
By Pam Jenoff
Park Row Books, 2019. 377 pgs. Historical Fiction

Grace Healey is late for work and rushing through Grand Central Terminal when she finds an abandoned suitcase. On a whim she opens it and takes a dozen photographs of different women that she finds inside. She feels bad and tries to return them later but discovers the suitcase is gone and it belonged to a woman that was killed by a car that morning. The woman is Eleanor Trigg and she was a leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed into occupied France during WWII. Grace feels drawn to discover who these women were and why their pictures were in Eleanor's suitcase. The novel alternates between telling Grace's story and going back in history to tell of one of these spies named Marie. Marie was a single mother who wanted to help with the war effort. Her daring mission reveals a story of friendship, survival and betrayal.

This book is inspired by true events and was a fascinating look at an aspect of WWII I wasn't familiar with. I loved getting to know Grace, Eleanor and Marie better through their stories. Each character was lost in some way and trying to make sense of life. I enjoyed this historical fiction novel and would recommend it to those who enjoyed The Nightingale or The Mistress of the Ritz.

AL

American Royals

American Royals
By Katharine McGee
Random House Books, 2019. 448 pages. Young Adult Fiction

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. As we all know: he said yes. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne, and Princess Beatrice has been given a directive by her parents: start looking for a potential spouse from their shortlist of options.  While Beatrice is occupied with looking for a future king consort, her two siblings, Samantha and Jefferson, are embroiled in their own drama with friends and illicit romances, all complicated by being in the media circus spotlight.

This young adult novel gives us a glimpse into an alternative world where monarchies didn't start to crumble through the 19th century, and which certainly resembles the last few remaining current-day royal families. This story will certainly have appeal for anyone intrigued by royalty and perhaps those who woke up in the wee hours of the morning to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Recommended for fans of The Selection series.

BHG

Spin the Dawn

Spin the Dawn
By Elizabeth Lim
Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 392 pages. Young Adult

Maia Tamarin is the only daughter of a renowned tailor. Tailoring has long been considered a male profession, so when a royal messenger requests her father or one of his sons to travel to the palace to become the imperial tailor, a position Maia has dreamed of since she was a little girl, Maia tries to convince the messenger to let her represent her father. When she’s denied, she disguises herself as a boy and poses as one of her brothers. What she doesn’t realize is that she will be one of 12 tailors competing for the position. When things heat up, Maia is given the impossible task of making three magic dresses, one from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

This has a very Project Runway feel with the various challenges, yet veers into a more traditional quest-fantasy as Maia seeks the materials needed for the magic dresses. I loved the premise of the story. It made me want to learn to sew. The characters had interesting back stories, and I found it to be a compelling read. This looks like it will be the first in The Blood of Stars series, and I’m already looking forward to it’s sequel.

ACS

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Kindred

Kindred
By Octavia E. Butler
Beacon Press, 1979. 287 pages. Fantasy

In 1976 California, Dana is a regular African-American woman, happily married to her white husband, Kevin. Though some family members have issues with their mixed-race marriage, Dana and Kevin continue on with their life like any other couple. One day, Dana is mysteriously transported from her living room back in time to the antebellum South. There, she rescues a young white boy from drowning, but finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun. Fearing for her own life, she’s mysteriously transported back to her living room and a very confused husband. When this happens repeatedly and for longer periods of time, Dana must learn to survive in a society drastically different from her own, a society where she is viewed as less than human.

This was a fascinating and thought-provoking read. Dana is a strong, smart woman who uses her knowledge of history and modern science to make advantageous decisions in incredibly bleak circumstances. Still, she’s a black woman in the South, and slavery is common practice. Even the boy she repeatedly rescues, the boy who owes her his life, can’t overcome his deeply ingrained prejudice. If you enjoy books that make you ask, what if?, this is definitely something you’ll want to pick up.

ACS

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

10 Blind Dates

Cover image for 10 blind dates
10 Blind Dates
by Ashley Elston
Hyperion, 2019, 327 pages, YA Fiction

Sophie is actually excited that her parents won’t be home for Christmas this year. It means she can spend more time with her boyfriend, Griffin. But when Griffin dumps her the night her parents leave, Sophie heads instead to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her extended family is gathered for the holidays. Learning of her heartbreak, Sophie’s family comes up with a plan. Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates, arranged by different family members. This will be a Christmas Sophie will always remember!

If you’re a fan of light Christmas romance movies, this is the book for you. Sophie’s dates range from fun and flirty to downright horrible, but each one is unique. What’s even more fun is to see how Sophie and her family reconnect. This book is full of family, food, and warm Christmas memories, which makes this book a perfect read for Christmas break.

If you enjoy 10 Blind Dates and want another light YA holiday romance, check out Let It Snow, which is a compilation of short stories that was recently turned into a movie by Netflix.

MB

Monday, December 9, 2019

Geronimo: His Own Story

Geronimo: His Own Story
by Robert M. Utley, Geronimo
Yale University Press. c2012. 348 pages. Biography.

Renowned for ferocity in battle, legendary for an uncanny ability to elude capture. feared for the violence of his vengeful raids. the Apache fighter Geronimo captured the public imagination in his own time and remains a mythic figure today. This thoroughly researched biography by a renowned historian of the American West strips away the myths and rumors that have long obscured the real Geronimo and presents an authentic portrait of a man with unique strengths and weaknesses and a destiny that swept him into history. 

When I read this book, I felt like I was sitting with Geronimo himself. In addition to dispelling tales and rumors about Geronimo, the reader is also acquainted with the perspectives of Geronimo and the Apaches during their wars with Mexico and the United States over their tribal lands. If anything, I think the biggest takeaway from this book is that no one is perfect, and we can always do more to understand each other and recognize that our similarities outweigh our differences.

NS

Murder in Mesopotamia

Murder in Mesopotamia
by Agatha Christie
Berkley 1936. 228 pages. Mystery

When nurse Amy Leatheran agrees to look after American archaeologist Dr Leidner’s wife Louise at a dig near Hassanieh she finds herself taking on more than just nursing duties – she also has to help solve murders. Fortunately for Amy, Hercule Poirot is visiting the excavation site but will the great detective be in time to prevent a multiple murderer from striking again?

I can't stop reading about Hercule Poirot! This book, along with the rest of the Poirot series is written at an easy-going pace. I found the crime (and its solution) to be unique, as opposed to being typical or predictable. The story is also told through the perspective of Amy Leatheran, a nurse who is new to the archaeological site and is therefore not immediately acquainted with anyone. This different perspective made me much more eager to find out who murdered Dr. Leidner's wife. If you're new to the mystery genre, I think the Poirot series by Agatha Christie is a great place to start. 

NS 

Ready, Set, Go! : A Gentle Parenting Guide to Calmer, Quicker Potty Training

Ready, Set, Go! : A Gentle Parenting Guide to Calmer, Quicker Potty Training 
by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
TarcherPerigee, 2017. 191 pgs. Nonfiction

 If you are thinking about potty training but aren’t sure where to start, this book is for you! Chapters include an explanation of the physiological development of the systems that control elimination, a clear guide for prepping and executing potty training, a chapter discussing setbacks and solutions, and a chapter on night time continence, which is interestingly different than day time continence. With this straight forward and simple guide, parents can stop dreading potty training and finally ditch the diapers.

 I used this book to potty train my toddler, and I am so glad I did! The author discourages rewards and sticker charts, and stresses the importance of not getting upset with a child for accidents. She strongly recommends using a separate potty chair and transitioning to the toilet later, but we just used the toilet and that worked well for us. Also her suggestion to buy wet/dry bags for soiled clothes has been one of the best bits of advice from this book! I highly recommend this book for those looking to potty train in the near future.

ER