Saturday, January 19, 2019

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming
by Patricia Briggs
Ballantine Books. 2009. 112 pgs. Graphic Novels

Have you ever wondered what life was like for Mercy when she first moved to the Tri Cities? Mercy has just graduated college and wants to find a teaching position in the Tri Cities and she is having a hard time because the school values someone who can coach sports more than how well they teach history to their students. And in true Mercy like fashion she got in way over her head within hours of showing up in town.

So I am slowly easing my way into the world of graphic novels. It is such a different story telling mechanic than the traditional way books are presented. I loved the way the art conveys the emotion and the setting without having a long explanation. Personally I loved imagining the characters more than seeing them on the page but I thought they tied in a lot of the set up information presented in other books really nicely.

MH

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty
By Charles Leerhsen
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015. 449 pages.

An authoritative, reliable and compelling biography of perhaps the most significant and controversial player in baseball history, Ty Cobb, drawing in part on newly discovered letters and documents.

This biography forces the reader to push aside any previous notion they had of Ty Cobb. Known as an overly aggressive man on and off the field, as a racist, and a hater of women and children, Ty Cobb continues to create enemies long after his death. Leerhsen's travels to Cobb's home state of Georgia and also to Detroit (home of the Detroit Tigers, the ball club he belonged to) brings forth brilliant research that challenges the Ty Cobb we think we know. His inquiries and findings are balanced, therefore Ty Cobb is neither seen as saint or sinner, but simply as a man.

In addition to enlightening the reader about Cobb, Leerhsen also educates the reader about the game of baseball that was played during Cobb's lifetime. I believe that this knowledge greatly enhances the reading experience. My one critique is that the book has a bit of a disorganized feel at times due to the fact that the reader is often jumping back and forth between different people, places, and events. I hope anyone even slightly familiar with Ty Cobb will give this book a chance and find out if they truly know Ty Cobb.

NS 

Long Journey Home

Long Journey Home
By Sarah M. Eden
Mirror Press, 2018. 363 pgs. Romance

Maura O'Connor became a war widow at a young age and struggled to raise her son in the slums of New York. That life has taken a toll on both of them and finally, out of desperation, she moves them both to the small western town of Hope Springs. She hasn't had contact with her late husband's family for ten years, but she hopes that they will accept her son and give him the family and stability he needs. Ryan Callahan has been working the land that belonged to the late Granny Claire for years, with the hopes that he could one day buy the land and move himself and his mother out of his brother's house. Granny Claire's home is unexpectedly given to a young widow and her son and his dreams of owning his own land become uncertain. Both Maura and Ryan desperately need the home and the land, but only one of them will be able to keep it.

This is the fourth book in the Hope Springs series. I liked that I finally got to learn Maura's story. She is mentioned briefly in previous books but this definitely filled in a lot of details. Sarah Eden is one of my favorite authors. I love how she deepens her characters through each additional book in the series.

AL


Friday, January 18, 2019

The Long Walk

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom
By Slavomir Rawicz
Lyons Press, 1997. 242 pgs. Nonfiction

Rawicz was a Polish Army lieutenant who the Soviets claimed was a spy, and was imprisoned after the German-Soviet invasion of Poland. Escape seemed impossible, but life in a Siberian Gulag camp was unbearable, so he and six other prisoners made a daring escape. To get to the safety of British India, they walked out of Siberia, through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas. As they marched thousands of miles by foot, hunger, thirst, illness, wounds, and death marked their journey.

This is an incredible tale of endurance and teamwork. There has been a lot of controversy over the validity of Rawicz’s account, and while there are passages that seem quite unbelievable, I also know that truth can be stranger than fiction. Whether this story really is an honest account, entirely fictional, or a combination of the two, I’m not qualified to judge, but I do know it’s powerful, moving, and an incredible testament to the human spirit.

ACS

Dry


By Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 390 pages. Young Adult.

In Southern California, when residents are asked to stop watering lawns and filling up swimming pools, no one expects the drought will last for too long. When the taps run dry, everyone assumes they’ll be back on soon, that someone is going to take care of the problem. As it starts to become apparent that this is not the case, as neighbors begin to turn on each other, and people’s humanity is replaced with fear and desperation, it may already be too late to leave. Faced with few options and fewer resources when their parents don’t return from a trek to a promised water station, teenage Alyssa and her younger brother must decide what drastic or dangerous actions they are willing to take to survive.

I deeply enjoy my apocalyptic tales with a side of realism and this one felt totally plausible considering some water crises that have been in the news in recent years and the rumored shortages that may be imminent. While it is a little less realistic that the teens in this novel are as resourceful and knowledgeable as they are described, it’s easy to suspend that disbelief because the storytelling and world building is that good- and listening to the audiobook with fantastic narrators was a treat as well. This book made me reconsider the running time of my showers and spurred me to stock up on emergency essentials, with plenty of water!

RC

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Belles


By Dhonielle Clayton
Freeform Books, 2018. 434 pages. Young Adult.

The Belles are women born with a magical power to change the way people look, to make them physically beautiful, which is revered above all else in the world of Orleans. While any imaginable transformation is possible, Belles are brought up to follow strict rules, and laws are in place to prevent certain dramatic or unsafe trends or transformations. There are those who push these boundaries and desire to use the Belles’ power for their own personal gain at the expense of others. When one of those people is royalty, can a Belle continue to do her duty to beautify as commanded, when what is asked of her conflicts with own moral compass, the law, and may bring a great evil into power?

While there is no shortage of YA books that question societal beauty norms and the dangers that can come from a fixation on appearance, this one adds to that narrative in ways that didn’t feel played out or repetitive. There were plenty of twists and turns that helped the story feel fresh and characters with questionable motives who kept me, and the Belles, wondering who they could trust. This is the first book in a series and I am looking forward to revisiting the world of Orleans to find out what happens next when the second book is released later this year.

RC

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Down and Across

Down and Across 
by Arvin Ahmadi

New York, New York : Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2018. 320 pages. Young Adult.

His friends know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott Ferdowsi can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion. With his parents pushing him to settle on a "practical" career, Scott sneaks off to Washington, DC, seeking guidance from a famous psychologist who claims to know the secret to success. He meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. Now Scott is sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try. Will he be able to find out who he is-- and who he wants to be?

This book will resonate with any young adult as it hits on major teen issues such as self-discovery, success and failure, and relationships. The plot is unique, but seems lost and even unrealistic at times. I appreciate the diversity found in characters, but feel that their backgrounds weren't explored nearly enough. I listened to this book as an audiobook in the Libby app. and feel the narrator gets the job done, but does not provide the listener with an extraordinary listening experience. I would recommend this book for a teen who needs inspiration to find their place in the world, but not to someone who would like a solid, good read.

NS


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

One Dirty Tree

One Dirty Tree
by Noah Van Sciver
Uncivilized Books, 2018. 166 Pages. Graphic Novel

In this brief memoir, the artist switches between two significant periods of his life: 1994, living with his large Mormon family in a cramped, derelict home, and 2014, as his 30th birthday approaches. Amidst his struggle to gain a foothold in the comics business and a navigating the future (or lack therof) of his long term romantic relationship, the artist finds himself reflecting on the past. His mind is drawn to his years at One Dirty Tree, so nicknamed by his older brothers, and how his tumultuous childhood has, and continues, to influence him decades later.

Firstly, I think this book is more accurately described as a mini-memoir, or autobiographical essays in comic format. Thinking of it that way, rather than a memoir, it works for what it is. The artist is a great storyteller, and each section draws you in. The Van Sciver family dynamic is fascinating, and fans of Jeanette Walls (THE GLASS CASTLE) will find a similar look at family dysfunction. This book mostly leaves it up to the reader to make the connections and identify the effects of the past as they apply to the (near) present, which can turn into a compelling exercise in self-reflection. That all said, I'm gonna warn you, this book is a tease. I don't mean to contradict myself; I meant everything I said before. But, these short vignettes make me want to write the author and beg, "More! Write more!"

Becoming

Cover image for Becoming
Becoming
By Michelle Obama
Crown, 2018, 426 pages, Memoir

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America, she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private. A deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.

I enjoyed learning more about Michelle Obama’s childhood growing up in the South Side of Chicago, along with her early career and meeting her husband, Barack Obama, and then seeing the change her life took as her life was lived more and more in the view of the public. Learning of Obama’s background helped me find a lot in common with her, even though our lives are fairly different. I especially appreciated that she has dedicated her life to improving the lives of those who are often overlooked or in the minority.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book, which is read by the author in a well-written, conversational style. It was like driving around town while listening to the captivating stories of a good friend at the same time.

Those who enjoy this book may also enjoy other memoirs of politicians, but I was especially reminded of Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Noble Masquerade

A Noble Masquerade
By Kristi Ann Hunter
Bethany House, 2015. 365 pgs. Romance

Lady Miranda Hawthorne is entering her fourth season and has pretty much given up on finding a match, especially with her vibrant younger sister debuting this year. Miranda is frustrated but her mother has trained her to be a proper lady in every way so she acts the part. She longs to be bold and carefree and she copes by writing secret letters to her brother's school friend where she pores out her innermost heart. She has never met the boy and has no intentions of ever mailing a single letter. Meanwhile, she is finding herself strangely attracted to her brother's new valet, but she knows that falling in love with a servant is out of the question. Soon the valet mails one of her letters and she is mortified to receive a letter back from the Duke.

This Regency romance had lots of twists and turns and more intrigue than most. I really loved Miranda's character. There aren't many romance books where the girl gets to punch the Duke in the face and still have everything work out. This is the first book I've ready by Kristi Ann Hunter but I will definitely by reading more of her books!

AL

Friday, January 11, 2019

Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam

Cover image for Boots on the ground : America's war in Vietnam
Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam
by Elizabeth Partridge
Viking, 2018, 213 pages, Young Adult Non-Fiction

An exploration of the Vietnam War from many different perspectives including American soldiers, a nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee.

This young adult nonfiction book does a great job of shedding light on a really complex topic without dumbing the topic down. Each chapter tells the story of the Vietnam War from the perspective of one person, based mostly on interviews conducted by the author. Those covered in the book cover the gamut of experiences, from soldiers on the ground in Vietnam, to politicians in Washington D.C., to protesters at Woodstock, and to refugees fleeing Vietnam for their lives. By telling the story this way, readers get insights into many different aspects of the war, and the author doesn’t take sides on the divisive topic of whether the U.S. should have fought the war or not. Instead, the focus of this story is on the dignity and experiences of all of the people involved.

Most touching to me was the last chapter of the book, which covers the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and discusses what a healing experience building this memorial was for the nation at large.

This book helped clarify a topic that was always a bit fuzzy to me, and I think anyone, old or young, will benefit from reading it. A great companion piece to this book is Ken Burns’ ten-part documentary on the Vietnam War.

MB

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Annotated Little Women

The Annotated Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott
W.W. Norton and Company, 2015. 652 pages. Fiction

This annotated edition is curated by renowned Alcott scholar John Matteson and includes full page, color illustrations and stills from the various film versions of the book. The annotations range from explanations of pickled limes to descriptions of objects and authors mentioned in the story. The annotations make the timeless story of the four sisters more accessible and fresh. The volume also contains essays about the literary importance of Little Women and how it has influenced other stories about children and young adults ever since its publication.

This giant book was a pleasure to read. The only reason it is so huge is because of the 200 illustrations and the annotations that go into quite a bit of depth about different aspects of the story. The annotations were so fun to read and really added context to the story. It was delightful to revisit this childhood favorite as an adult to celebrate its 150th anniversary. 


Saturday, January 5, 2019

From Ash and Stone

From Ash and Stone
by Julie Daines
Covenant Communications, Inc. 2018, 240 pgs, Romance

Lady Margaret Grey from Hartfell had everything. Her father was a knight with a loving family, until one day when the raiders came and she lost everything and gained an ability she would rather not have. She has spent many years in London stealing to survive and has finally returned home to take her revenge on the man who stole everything she held dear from her.

This was a nice feel good romance and it was a lot of fun imagining the countryside this took place in. It was interesting following this character and the struggle she experienced from having to spend so much time without physical contact because when she touches someone she can hear and feel all of their passing thoughts and feelings.

MH

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Lies Jane Austen Told Me

Lies Jane Austen Told Me
By Julie Wright
Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2017. 315 pages. Romance

Emma loves all things Jane Austen. She believes Jane knows everything there is to know about love and romance. When Emma's boyfriend, Blake Hampton, invites her to his parents house for the weekend she expects to come home with a ring. Unfortunately, Jane Austen's assumption that a man with a good fortune must be in want of a wife is proven thoroughly untrue. Feeling betrayed by both Jane and Blake, Emma throws herself into her work and slowly finds herself attracted to her new coworker, Lucas. There's just one problem. He's Blake's brother.

This book popped up on my suggested books list a few times, so I decided to give it a shot. I liked that each chapter started off with a quote from one of Austen's novels that foreshadow what was to come. It follows the basic plot that Austen uses in her own books but modernizes it. I liked Emma and enjoyed her progress from getting over her ex to discovering new love. However, I occasionally rolled my eyes at her. Lucas was a gem. He gave the illusion of being a realistic man while still meeting the expectations of a fictional romantic interest. This romance was clean, happy, and light.

HS

Perfect Set: Game On

Perfect Set: Game On
By Melanie Jacobson
Covenant Communications, 2018, 215 pages, Romance

Bree Mercer is a sports reporter with one rule: never date a professional athlete. Ever. This rule helps her build credibility and avoid heartbreak. When she is assigned to write about Kade Townsend, a beach volleyball player, she knows it will be a tough job. After all, he hates reporters. But as she works to gain Kade's trust, she realizes that he is more than just a cocky athlete. He's kind, sincere, and persistent. Will he be the one she breaks her rule for?

I started off my holiday break by reading Perfect Set and I was not disappointed. I wanted a light, fun, and clean romance and Jacobson delivered. I liked Bree and Kade's relationship and that they both grew as the book progressed. The plot was predictable, but that's what you want and expect when you pick up a book like this. It's a great read if you want a lighthearted romance with a happy ending.

HS

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Madness So Discreet

A Madness So Discreet
by Mindy Mcginnis
Harper Collins, 2015, 384pgs. Young Adult

Grace Mae has been incarcerated in an insane asylum. She has been committed to hide the shame and unwedded pregnancy brings to a family and is treated in the most deplorable manner. Her life suddenly changes when she is offered the opportunity to use her talents to help a doctor with his practice. What will become of this young woman so close to the edge of sanity herself and will she be able to make a difference in the world.

Can I just say there are facets of this story lights a rage inside my soul for the history of mental health fortunately there are many forces at work making sure such things happen less often but asylum history and lobotomies make me angry. That soap box aside, I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be an engaging read as I wondered what would happen to Grace and if she would find the strength to pick up the pieces of her life and carry on. I feel like this would be a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in a fictional representation of some of the history in psychology.

MH

The Feather Thief

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
by Kirk Wallace Johnson
Viking, 2018. 320 pgs. Non-Fiction.

One evening in July 2009, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist broke into the Tring Museum, an outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. His objective? To make off with as many rare bird specimens as his suitcase could carry. Rist planned on keeping some of them for his own personal use, but others he planned to sell to fund a new gold flute he had his eye on. Who would (illegally) buy dead birds? Let me introduce you to the Victorian salmon fly-tying community. 

I first heard a version of this story on the podcast This American Life and worried that reading the book would feel really repetitive. That was not the case! Johnson includes so many details from Wallace’s scientific expeditions (the guy who caught the birds in the first place), to the history of fly-tying, to details on the heist itself. He also does a great job of conveying information without info-dumping. I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys true crime stories in general, but particularly as a non-violent/gory true crime option.

AU

Monday, December 31, 2018

Geekerella

Geekerella
By Ashley Poston
Quirk Books, 2017. 320 pages. Young Adult

Elle Wittimer loves Starfield, the sci-fi space travel show she grew up watching with her late father.  When she hears that there will be a new Starfield movie, she is dubious about the actor they've chosen for the lead role - how can he ever compare to the original?  But when she hears that there will be a cosplay contest at the next Starfield convention, she can't resist using her savings from her job at the Magic Pumpkin food truck to try to win.

Teen actor Darien Freeman has been chosen to play the lead role of Carmindor in the new Starfield movie reboot.  As a true Starfield fan, he's thrilled to get the role, but he'll need to prove himself to the rest of the fandom.  As the Starfield convention's Cosplay Ball draws near, he strikes up an anonymous text conversation with another true-blue Starfield fan, and he can't help feeling drawn to her.

The Cinderella story gets a fresh reboot with a geekdom twist.  This is a fun story with interesting characters, and I appreciated that Elle and Darien are able to establish some sort of relationship before the ball.  Not purely just a romance, this is also a coming-of-age story and a love letter to fandoms that help inspire and bring people together.

BHG

Sheets


by Brenna Thummler
Lion Forge, 2018. 238 pgs. Young Adult Comics

Marjorie Glatt is a practical 13-year-old who often feels like a ghost. She is in charge of the family laundry business, attends school, has to keep the fastidious Mr. Saubertuck from destroying everything, and take care of her family as they slowing fall apart. Sometimes you just need a new friend to help get through the bad times, even if that friend is a ghost.

This was an enjoyable read with lighthearted moments. It was easy to feel a connection with Marjorie and the stress that she was feeling as such a young age. The illustrations are fun and colorful, and the story moves quickly. Everything works out for the family and the ghosts in the end, so all of her struggles are worth it. This would be a great read for tweens or teens who enjoy contemporary fiction with a paranormal twist.

TT

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hey, Kiddo

by Jarrett Krosoczka
Graphix, 2018. 294 pgs. Graphic Novel

In this moving memoir, Krosoczka explores what his early life was like through illustration. His mom was a drug addict, in and out of rehab, and he knew nothing about his father. His very loud, very loving, very opinionated grandparents took him in and raised him, but this had its own sets of challenges. He finds that he can express himself through drawing, and is able to piece together the truth about his family as he becomes a teenager. Eventually, he meets his father and develops a tentative relationship with his mother, as he uses his artwork to work through his feelings and history.

This was a powerful and moving memoir. There were parts that made me cry and I felt like I knew the author through the intimate details that he shared of his life. There is a range of emotions, including humor, sorrow, triumph, and others as Krosoczka shares his passion for art and his experiences in a unique family. I would suggest this for teens and adults as it does deal with addiction and a few harder issues, but is overall a great read and a wonderful memoir.


TT

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Courage to Be You

Courage to Be You: Inspiring Lessons from an Unexpected Journey
By Gail Miller
Deseret Book, 2018. 160 pgs. Biography

Gail Miller is the wife of Larry H. Miller. In this sort book, she shares her thoughts and experiences on several important topics like patience, money, family and faith. This isn't like a normal biography because her life experiences are not shared chronologically, but instead are shared in connection to the topic.

I honestly didn't know much about Gail Miller before reading this book. I was familiar with the name of Larry H. Miller and knew he had owned the Jazz, car dealerships and movie theaters. I have so much respect and admiration for Gail Miller now. She is open and honest in sharing her struggles and achievements in life. Throughout the whole book she shares her testimony of God and encourages each of us to trust in Him and allow Him to make us the best version of ourselves.

AL

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stranger Things Have Happened

Stranger Things Have Happened
by Jeff Strand
Sourcebook Fire, 2017, 289 pages, Young Adult Fiction

Marcus is a fifteen-year-old aspiring magician. When his great-grandfather, Zachary the Stupendous, gets Marcus roped into a bet, Marcus must plan and execute an incredible magic trick to protect his great-grandfather's honor. As if the situation isn't bad enough, he also deals with bullies, an evil magician, and a new precarious friendship. Who knew high school could be so stressful?

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good laugh. The situations Marcus found himself in were a combination of terrifying and hilarious. Marcus's inner dialogue resonated with the sassy woman inside my head and the fact that the characters were all extremely different made the book a delight to read. I listened to this book on CD and the narrator was fabulous. If you are planning on a family road trip in the near future, then you should consider bringing this book along.

HS

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The 57 Bus

The 57 Bus
By Dashka Slater
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. 305 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction

Sasha and Richard both live in Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country. With vastly different lives, their paths don’t intersect aside from the eight minute ride on the 57 bus. As Sasha naps on their ride home from school, Richard’s friends think it would be funny to light Sasha’s skirt on fire. It will be surprising, and then smolder out, they thought. Like a practical joke. With just a touch of Richard’s lighter, Sasha’s skirt erupts into flames, leaving their body badly burned. With that one reckless act, both Sasha’s and Richard’s lives are forever changed.

I’ve heard the author talk about this book and how she wondered if she could paint a sympathetic picture of both teens. While what Richard did was terrible, there’s also a lot of background that isn’t apparent when judging him from that one instance. Dashka Slater covered this crime for the New York Times magazine as it was happening, and her attention to detail and thorough research really paints a fascinating portrait of the two teens and their lives before, during, and after the incident. She explores the concepts of race, class, gender, crime, punishment, and how all of these different factors contributed to not only the incident, but also the public’s perception of it. Did she make me care and sympathize with both Sasha and Richard? Yes, she did. Very well done, I loved this book.

ACS

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Cover image for The 7 1/2 deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
by Stuart Turton
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018, 435 pages, Mystery

The Hardcastle family is hosting a masquerade at their home, and their daughter Evelyn Hardcastle will die. She will die over and over again until Aiden Bishop is able identify her killer and break the cycle. But Aiden wakes up each day in a different body as one of the guests. Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle's murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem. 

This book is pretty close to my Platonic ideal of a good book. A murder at an English country house party, with time shifts and body swapping? Yes please! While there were a few small continuity issues as Aiden relives the same day over again in different bodies, I was mostly just so intrigued with this premise, and so curious as to how Aiden would finally break the cycle, that I really didn’t care. Those who love Agatha Christie mysteries and Downton Abbey, and don’t mind that the two were put in a blender and mixed with a fantastical premise somewhat akin to the movie Groundhog Day, will enjoy this book. It was a great combination for me.

MB

The Kiss Quotient

Cover image for The kiss quotient
The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
Jove Books, 2018, 317 pages, Romance

At thirty years old, Stella Lane has way less experience in the dating world than most. Her high-functioning autism means that she’d much rather work with spreadsheets and statistics than with people. After considering her options, Stella decides that all she needs is practice, so she hires escort Michael Phan to show her the ins and outs of romance. Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate Michael’s kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense, and the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic.

This book was a lot of fun, and I loved that it featured characters who aren’t in the mainstream. Not only does Stella have autism, but Michael is Korean American (Stella likes that he looks like her favorite K-Pop star). This was a great way to add depth to the characters, and makes it another great recent example of diverse characters being featured in literature. This book does have some pretty steamy scenes and uses some strong language.  Those who love a good romance featuring realistic characters who deal with real-world issues will love how well-written and well-plotted this one is.

MB

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters 
By Anne Boyd Rioux
W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. 273 pages. Nonfiction

 Since it was published, Little Women has been a phenomena. It has come to be the standard for American writing about girls and women, just like Huckleberry Finn is the standard for American writing about boys and men. It has never been out of print. In this book Rioux explores the backstory behind the book, Louisa May Alcott’s family life, her experiences that built the book over time. Rioux also explores how this book set in the 1860’s still resonates with modern audiences, modern writers, and continues to inspires girls and women to become writers.

 Jo March has always been one of my heroes, so this book was a joy to read. I loved how Rioux went through the history behind the book but didn’t get bogged down in it. She did some really fascinating analysis of the plays and movies that are based on the book, talking about how it is difficult for adult women to portray the childlike qualities of the March girls while also portraying their iron wills and their strength. This was a really fun, quick read about one of my favorite books.


AGP


Monday, December 10, 2018

Touch of Frost

Touch of Frost
by Jennifer Estep
K Teen, 2011. 373 pgs. Young Adult Fiction. 

At her new school, Gwen Frost is known as that gypsy girl who sees things. She is an outcast at Mythos Academy, not because she has magic but because she is not magically gifted in the same way as the other students. Everyone at Mythos is legendary, from Valkyries to Spartans and Gwen just doesn’t fit in. But when mean queen bee Jasmine is murdered and a powerful magical artifact is stolen, Gwen senses that something is off and is determined to find out who killed Jasmine and why. 

At the beginning of the book Gwen is still mourning her mother’s death and is struggling to understand why she has to attend this weird school in the first place. As the book progresses, Gwen comes to understand more about her heritage and powers, and why she needs to attend Mythos. I liked that this book doesn’t follow some of the more annoying tropes in Young Adult literature, as she is a fairly reasonable, non-angsty teenager. There are a lot of references to alcohol and sex, but nothing that stood out to me as explicit.

 ER

Victoria and Albert: A Royal Love Affair

Victoria and Albert: A Royal Love Affair
By Daisy Goodwin and Sara Sheridan
St. Martin’s Press, 2017. 304 pgs. Nonfiction

The marriage of Victoria and Albert was one for the story books. Victoria adored Albert. For twenty years she and her sweetheart ruled side by side. But as this book shows, it wasn’t all a fairy tale. Based on journals and accounts from the time, this book narrows the focus of Victoria’s reign to the twenty years she was with Albert before his death. Though they were first cousins, they were completely different in personality. Victoria was passionate, headstrong, and emotional. Albert was logical, introverted, and calculating. They balanced each other out. Their marriage was tempestuous but also full of love and support. The book explores their relationship and how it strengthened over their marriage. After Albert died, Queen Victoria was never the same. She mourned him for the rest of her lonely thirty year reign.

I loved listening to this book. I love it when a nonfiction book feels like a romance. By focusing on just the relationship between the Queen and Prince Consort, the book was able to highlight their family life, their love story, and their partnership. I was especially enthralled with the story about Queen Victoria suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of the Crown Prince. The whole royal household was baffled by Victoria’s behavior. I loved how Prince Albert leaned in and helped Victoria during this time. If you are watching the PBS Series Victoria, this is a must listen.

AG




Friday, December 7, 2018

Annie on my Mind

Annie on my Mind
by Nancy Garden
Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1982. 263 pages. Young Adult.

Liza is a high achieving high school student, the class president, and has her sights set on studying at MIT. When she meets Annie at a museum, a fast friendship is formed, which evolves into so much more. Their choice to be together comes with conflict when Liza’s school finds out about their relationship and decides to hold a disciplinary counsel to remove Liza from her president seat, and possibly from the school altogether. The teens soon learn that love isn’t all you need, but it might make the hardships worth it.

This endearing love story is still as relevant and charming today as it was when the book was originally published in 1982. It is considered a classic in the LGBTQ+ genre, and was one of the first YA books featuring lesbian main characters that included a happy ending. The sweet depiction of first love and the connection that the girls feel is a heartwarming ray of much needed sunshine. This is a clean and enjoyable read for fans of either YA romance or LGBTQ+ novels.

RC

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Archived

The Archived
by Victoria Schwab
Hyperion, 2013. 321 pgs. Young Adult.

When you die, you become a History which then gets filed in the Archives. Mackenzie is a Keeper. It’s her job to return Histories to the Archives if they ever wake up. After moving with her parents to an old hotel, the number of Histories that she’s assigned to return increases and becomes harder to manage. As more and more Histories find their way into her territory, it becomes clear that something is wrong with the Archives.

This book’s entire premise was fascinating to me. I loved Schwab’s take on the afterlife (which is essentially a library). For the first 2/3 of this book I just had so many questions and didn’t feel like I was getting any answers, but by the end almost all of my questions were answered. I liked Mackenzie as a main character overall, but I felt so frustrated at how secretive she was. Sometimes she had good reasons for keeping secrets, but at other times it felt like her reasoning was an angsty, “They won’t understand!” Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it for people who don’t mind diving into a semi-complicated world and waiting a while for any kind of payoff.

AU