Saturday, June 23, 2018

Radiance


By Catherynne M. Valente
Tor Books, 2016. 478 pgs. Fiction.

This book is a decopunk, pulp, Science Fiction, space opera, mystery. Set in a solar system that only vaguely resembles ours, this story is an homage to the golden age of film making.  Set in an alternate 1986 where the Edison family has been miserly with their patents and talking pictures are still a new invention, Severin Unck is a documentarian. She travels to exotic places in the solar system and investigates the mysteries of disappearing space colonies, particularly one on the water world of Venus. But the mystery of the disappearing colony extends to the disappearance of Severin herself.

Valente’s style is opulent and sparkling, just like the exotic and elegant characters she describes. The story is told in snatches of personal film archives, excerpts from reality TV, gossip magazines, and classic films. This is a galaxy-spanning mystery that will draw you in and take you to places you have never been.

Also, check out the audio version of this book. The narrator is amazing. 

AG

Loving Lieutenant Lancaster

Loving Lieutenant Lancaster
By Sarah M. Eden
Covenant Communications, 2018. 243 pgs. Romance

Arabella Hampton was orphaned at a young age and lived with very unloving and cruel relatives. The only light in her life came when she came in contact with the Jonquil's and she dreamed of what life might be like to be a part of their family. Years later she is given the chance to be the lady's companion to the dowager countess. She finds that life at Lampton Park is much more complicated than she imagined and becomes even more so when a grand house party is planned. She is happy to hide in the shadows, but one of the guests, Lieutenant Linus Lancaster, notices her and won't let her stay there for long.

I am a huge fan of Sarah Eden and this book was a dream come true! It combined the characters from the Jonquil series and the Lancaster series all at the same house party. Having the surely Duke of Kielder and the flamboyant Lord Lampton together guaranteed conflict and humor as the brother-in-laws tried to keep them from killing each other.  Sarah Eden creates characters that come alive. After reading nine books between the two series, the characters feel like family and it was so enjoyable to see their stories intertwine and continue. This book is about Linus Lancaster and Arabella but all the secondary characters make it a treat!

AL

The False Prince

The False Prince
By Jennifer Nielsen
Scholastic Press, 2012. 342 pgs. Young Adult

The country of Carthya is under threat of civil war. Connor, a nobleman, creates an elaborate plan to find and train an orphan to pose as the long lost son of the king and serve as a puppet prince. He chooses four orphans to compete with each other for the honor. Sage is one of the orphans. He doesn't want to win but he knows that death awaits all the losers. There are so many layers of dangerous lies and deceit but a truth is revealed that might be more dangerous than everything else combined.

This is the first book in the Ascendance trilogy and I really enjoyed listening to the audio book. This would be a great book for a family road trip because there were some twists that even I didn't see coming. I look forward to the rest of the books in the series.

AL

Friday, June 22, 2018

Circe

Cover image for Circe : a novel
Circe
By Madeline Miller
Little, Brown & Co, 2018, 393 pages, General Fiction

Circe, the daughter of Helios the sun god, chafes at life in the palace of her father, where everyone sees her as someone who is not worth their attention. When she acts out in a spectacular way and is banished to the island of Aeaea, she spends her days honing her powers and becoming comfortable with who she is. But Aeaea isn’t as solitary as it seems, and soon others, gods and mortals alike, come to Circe’s shores. While some of these ask for Circe’s help, others mean her harm, and Circe must eventually choose between the worlds of the gods and mortals.

All I knew about Circe before I read this book was the little I knew of her from The Odyssey. I didn't know that she appears in other Greek tales! Miller compiles these tales, and uses a bit of poetic license, to make Circe a fully fleshed-out character with interesting, relatable motivations. This made the parts of Circe's story I knew feel new and fresh, and it made me look at her story with new eyes.  The Greek tales of Circe have an interesting outcome that would be seen as strange in today’s world, yet Miller helped the ending make some sense. Those who like mythology, tales of the ancient world, and strong women will really enjoy this book.

I also highly recommend the audiobook version of this story, which is expertly read by Perdita Weeks.

MB

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Annihilation

Annihilation
by Jeff VanderMeer
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. 195 pages General Fiction

After almost 12 expeditions to Area X, the place is still shrouded in mystery. Since so few explorers ever return to share their findings, little is known about the strange animal and plant life there and what is mutating or changing them. That dreary fact doesn’t stop the next expedition, comprised of all female members, from venturing out in attempt to make sense of the place that seems to be slowly and alarmingly expanding to surrounding areas and affecting all it touches. The group, comprised of a psychologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, a biologist, and a linguist, has been instructed not to share personal information including names, not to bring any modern technology on the trek, and to keep their findings and observations privately recorded in their journals. They soon learn that Area X is not what it appears, and that their fellow expedition members are not either.

There are so many little revelations throughout this book, that writing too much about it will surely spoil it. It’s fast paced, suspenseful, and lusciously descriptive of a world within our own, being altered by unseen forces. It is the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy and I can't wait to read the others! This book has been adapted into a film starring Natalie Portman, but there’s a lot of nuance and world building missing from the film- so skip the movie, and read the book instead!

RC

The Line Becomes a River

The Line Becomes a River
By Francisco Cantú
Riverhead Books, 2018. 250 pages.

Francisco Cantú crew up in the American Southwest, the grandson of Mexican immigrants. For Cantú, the US/Mexican border formed and defined his existence. In an effort to better understand the border, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. During his years as an agent, he encounters drug smugglers and criminals, but is surprised by the shear amount of immigrants just looking for a better life. Eventually, plagued by nightmares of violence and haunted by the indifference to human life he encountered as an agent, Cantú quits the Patrol. But when a close friend travels to Mexico and is stopped at the border trying to re-enter, Cantú comes face-to-face with devastating effects that the border has on families.

Coincidentally, I finished this book just as reports flooded the news about our government’s Zero Tolerance policy wreaking havoc on immigrant families at the border. Regardless of one’s feelings on illegal immigration, this book is a must read. Cantú’s portrayal of our system’s callous approach to human life is a wakeup call that cannot, and should not, be ignored.

ALL

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Whydah : A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found

The Whydah : A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found
by, Martin W. Sandler
Candlewick Press, 2017. 170 pgs, YA Non-Fiction

This book goes into the history of The Whydah, her captain and crew. It tells how a slaver laden with payment after a trade was captured by pirates, sunk in a brutal storm the same day it was the most successful pirate vessel. There is adventure, betrayal, and some awesome pirate history.

This was a fun read for me. I have always been fascinated by pirates and I learned a lot about why an average person in the 18th century would contemplate piracy as a way of life. This book had a lot of cool facts and was super interesting. Samuel Bellamy sadly is not well known in history but as far as pirates go it was really cool to read about him, and his life and why he became a pirate. I found it to be an fascinating and quick read.

MH

Saturday, June 16, 2018

We Own the Sky

Cover image for We own the sky
We Own the Sky
By Luke Allnutt
Park Row Books, 2018, 358 pages, General Fiction

When a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob Coates's world begins to unravel. It is only when he has lost almost everything that Rob begins to seek solace. He honors his past by photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. As Rob does so, he embarks on a journey to find his way back to life, and forgiveness.

A tribute to the love between parents and children, especially fathers and sons, this novel does a great job at taking you through the different emotions a parent might feel when thy find out their child is terminally ill. Told mostly through a series of flashbacks, the rollercoaster of desperation, love, and hope the characters feel through each stage of the journey seems authentic and palpable. While Anna blames herself for her son’s illness, Rob is obsessed with researching; looking for any sort of experimental drug that might cure his son, and not caring about what other consequences these treatments might bring. Although this is a depressing topic, I found this book to be quiet but compelling, and highly touching. Those would were touched by When Breath Becomes Air will likely enjoy this book as well.

MB

Friday, June 15, 2018

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens
By Eddie Izzard
Random House, 2017, 385 pgs. Biography

British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard writes about his life, his comedy, and his charity marathon running is this candid and conversational autobiography. After his mother died when he was only 6 years old, he and his brother attended boarding schools for much of their adolescence. It was here that he discovered he wanted to act, and that he had a flare for comedy. He spends a great deal of the book talking about his youth and how his early life influenced his worldview, which in turn influences his comedy, and on his years of work getting his comedy career off the ground. Izzard spends less time on topics that might interest his fans- like coming out and thriving as transgender, his political activism, or notable past acting roles- both dramatic and comedic. The stories he does include have his signature wit and surreal observances, and broaden the readers understanding of how his mind works to bring out the humor and absurdity in the world at large.

The book has the same pacing as his stand-up does; he moves quickly from topic to topic and seems to have a stream of consciousness way of getting from one story to the next. I listened to the audio book version, which Izzard reads, and that added a level of delight and humor- and a lot of side information and stories that he’d preface with “Now, this isn’t in the book…” I would recommend this book to those who are already know and love Izzard and his comedy, and highly recommend giving the audio book version a listen for a good laugh.

RC

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Blue Tattoo

The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman
by Margot Mifflin
University of Nebraska Press, 2009. 280 pgs. Biography

In 1851, Olive Oatman was just another pilgrim trekking westward with her family as thousands had before them. Her journey however, took an unexpected turn to a new life, a new family as an adopted member of the Mojave tribe - made official with a blue tattoo. After her "rescue, "Olive's story captured the country's attention and bred several retellings, including a collaborative memoir written by Olive and pastor Royal Stratton. But none of these stories line up with Olive's accounts told soon after her ransom - including her "memoir." What really happened to the girl with the blue tattoo? Was it a reminder of years of suffering among strangers - or another life and family stolen from her by fate?

I first heard about Olive Oatman a few years ago while reading about tattooing in America. While being the first white woman (on historical record) to be tattooed in the United States is fascinating in an of itself, there's so much about Olive's life to explore. The great thing about this biography is that it delves into all those parts, not just telling Olive's story of captivity, adoption, and "rescue," but it really gets into the cultural, historical, and gender politics at play during this time and how life was for this woman caught between worlds. This book doesn't just set the record straight, it also gives Olive power over her story again.

MW

A Whole New World

A Whole New World (Twisted Tales, 1)
by Liz Braswell
Disney Press, 2015. 376 pgs. YA Fantasy

What if Aladdin never got the lamp? Based on the 1992 Disney film Aladdin, this book explores what could have happened to Agrabah if Jafar had possession of the Genie instead of Aladdin. The story is told from the point of view of both Aladdin and Jasmine, and explores themes of friendship, growth, compassion, revenge, evil, and freedom as Jasmine rallies her people to overthrow Jafar.

I loved this retelling of a classic movie from my childhood. Although my opinion differs from many hardcore Disney fans, I found it refreshing, progressive, and modern. Jasmine is strong, independent, and smart in the ways that matter. She learns and grows throughout the book, preparing her for the throne. She is able to recognize the faults of her forefathers and develops compassion and understanding for her people and Aladdin. Both Aladdin and Jasmine were fleshed out characters with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, challenges and triumphs. I would suggest this for anyone who enjoys fractured fairy tales, princesses, and strong female characters.

TT

Monday, June 11, 2018

Victoria: The Queen

Victoria: The Queen
By Julia Baird
Random House, 2017, 752 pages, Biography

This biography of Queen Victoria is fresh, well researched, and mesmerizing. Though it is quite a brick of a book, it is a charmingly fast read. Using her background in history and journalism, author Julia Baird challenges many of the stereotypes of Queen Victoria and paints a picture of a complex and passionate woman.

For example, Baird challenges the idea that Victoria didn’t care for her children. Using personal diaries, letters, and recollections of those closest to Victoria, she shows that the Queen doted on her children, especially the pretty ones. Baird also shows the problematic and intense relationships Victoria had with John Brown and Abdul Kareem.

I loved this comprehensive look at Victoria’s life, not just her relationship with Prince Albert. In many ways her dependence upon Albert crippled her powerful spirit. It took her ten years to come back to herself after he died. What I learned most was that Queen Victoria flourished when she felt loved and safe. Whether it was the support of her Prime Ministers, her servants, or her children, she was a warm and vibrant person when she felt supported by those closest to her.

AG

Friday, June 8, 2018

Wires and Nerve

Wires and Nerve (Lunar Chronicles, 1) 
by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 2017. 238 pgs. Young Adult Graphic Novels 

In this continuation of the Lunar Chronicles series, the story begins seven months after Cinder was crowned queen of Lunar. There are rogue wolf hybrid soldiers terrorizing Earth and something must be done. Iko, formerly a household robot and Cinder’s best friend, goes to Earth and begins to round up all of the wolf packs that are causing death and destruction. But some soldiers are not happy with the new Lunar leadership and want to hurt Iko, Cinder, and their friends.

I enjoyed this continuation of the Lunar Chronicles and seeing things from Iko’s point of view. The artwork is highly stylized, with long faces and all the color in shades of blue. The story was fast moving and included many of the main characters from the original series. Iko has her own strengths and weaknesses that influence how she responds to situations other characters. It was a fast read and great for anyone who likes graphic novels or the original Lunar Chronicles series.

TT

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

One Second After

One Second After
By William R. Forstchen
Forge, 2009. 352 pgs. Sci-Fi

John Matherson, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, moved to his wife’s hometown of Black Mountain, North Carolina when she was dying from cancer. Now he’s a history professor at the local college and raising his two girls alone. One day while chatting with a former colleague the phone the line goes dead. The problems don’t stop there, and he soon discovers that all electronics have been fried due to a widespread electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. Electronics have become so integrated into our lives that the sudden loss sends nearby towns into chaos. John must use his skills and leadership abilities to create order that will allow his town and family survive the dark times ahead, in spite of worsening conditions.

This was a fascinating story that, while science fiction, is based in science fact. A large EMP could truly destroy life as we know it, and survival would be extremely difficult. Highly populated urban areas would completely fall apart, while smaller towns with access to farms and fresh water supplies might limp along. Reading this book makes me want to learn new skills that could be utilized in case of a debilitating disaster. It was interesting and although it’s the first in a series, it also stands well on its own. I could easily recommend this to fans of survival or apocalypse stories.

ACS

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet
By M. C. Beaton
St. Martin's Press, 1993. 213 pages. Mystery

Agatha Raisin has retired to the Cotswolds after a successful career as a PR executive.  After solving a murder the previous year, Agatha is ready to settle down for a quiet life of trying to attract the eye of her handsome new neighbor James Lacey.  But Agatha finds his interest is only piqued by the murder of a local vet.  Suspicious of the circumstances of the vet's death herself, she decides to team up with James to investigate, and if a little love blossoms between them as a result, what can be the harm?

This second book in the Agatha Raisin series is a solid mystery, but the real draw of the series is Agatha herself.  Agatha is a strong heroine who has a deeply vulnerable side that she tries to hide from others, and as such I find her very relatable.  Readers looking for strong, capable characters in a cozy mystery would do well to check out this series.

BHG

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dead Heat

Dead Heat
by Patricia Briggs
Ace Books, 2015, 324 pgs, Fantasy

In the fourth book of the Alpha and Omega series, Charles and Anna take a personal trip to Arizona to buy Anna a horse for her birthday, and visit Joseph, an old friend of Charles. Although the visit is supposed to provide a break from Charles’ enforcer duties, the couple still manages to find themselves in the middle of a dangerous situation. A fae that specializes in kidnapping and killing children is loose in the area, and has targeted Joseph’s family. Now Charles and Anna must find the fae and stop it before anyone else dies.

I felt like character development was a strong point of this book. The new people introduced from Joseph’s family are given depth, even though they are temporary characters. I also enjoyed learning some more of Charles’ back story, and looking at him through Anna’s perspective is especially useful since she reads him better than anyone else. Really there’s so much to enjoy with Patricia Brigg’s books, and Dead Heat does not disappoint!

ER

Fascism


Fascism: A Warning
by Madeleine Albright
Harper, 2018, 288 pgs.  Nonfiction


I’ll be honest.  I’ve never really understood what fascism was.  But thanks to Mrs. Albright’s very interesting examination of the fascists who have shaped our modern world, I am closer to understanding how to identify such people and the dangers they pose to our freedom and future.  She begins with the fascist ideas and leaders that were responsible for World War II and ends with a warning that these same ideas are held by a new generation of leaders. 


I thoroughly enjoyed this tour of world politics from a woman who has been so influential for so many years.  Her writing is clear and direct and she pulls no punches as she points to those who may challenge the democratic world we now inhabit.   This is a wonderful exploration of the topic and will hopefully become the warning it was intended to be.


CG

Girls Burn Brighter

Girls Burn Brighter
By Shobha Rao
Flatiron Books, 2018. 307 pgs. Fiction


This powerful story of friendship set against the cruelties of the word is told alternatingly by two girls, both born into poverty in India.  After Poornima’s mother’s death she finds little happiness in life until Savitha is hired to help with the family’s weaving business.  Savitha is a breath of fresh air and Poornima soaks in the joy and hope her new friend has in abundance.  But a brutal act of abuse breaks Savitha and she disappears into the Indian underworld.  Poornima is left behind to an arranged marriage that brings little joy until she decides to take charge of her destiny and search for her friend.


This is not an easy story to read.  Any time human trafficking is described, readers should be prepared for violence and abuse.  But I felt like Rao handles these situations in a careful way without becoming too graphic while still staying true to the situation, which I admired.  Her heroines are wonderful, strong, women who do what they must to stay alive and somehow manage to maintain some level of hope for the future.  This is a novel that sticks with you and describes a dark part of the world few of us, thankfully, will ever know.


CG

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water
By Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus
Feiwel and Friends, 2018. 315 pages.

Elisa Esposito is mute, an orphan, and lives a dull life as a night janitor in 1962 Baltimore. One night she discovers that her place of employment, the Occam Aerospace Research Center, harbors a dark secret. The Center has secreted away a sensitive government asset: a humanoid amphibian creature captured in the Amazon and studied to give the US a Cold War advantage. Elisa is drawn to the creature and begins to communicate with him by teaching him sign language. She soon realizes that the magnificent creature is so much more than a terrifying monster—he understands human emotion and may have much to offer the human race. In order to save this creature’s life, and her heart, Elisa must find a way to save him from the diabolical research facility.

Though you may have seen the Academy Award’s Best Picture of the year, you may not be aware that a companion novel was published at the same time as the movie release. Guillermo del Toro’s reimagining of a classic monster tale is as beautiful as it is relevant to modern audiences. It is not so much a monster-horror as a commentary on social outcasts and their treatment in a narrow-minded society. Whether it is through race, disability, same-gender attraction, or post-war PTSD, each character in this story is an outcast in some way, and their struggle is what makes this story a true masterpiece.

ALL

You Bring the Distant Near

Cover image for You bring the distant near
You Bring the Distant Near
By Mitali Perkins
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017, 303 pages, Young Adult Fiction

From 1965 through the present, an Indian American family adjusts to life in New York City, alternately fending off and welcoming challenges to their own traditions.

This award-winning book brings up the unique perspectives of being multi-cultural in America through many generations. Learning to find a balance between your Indian culture and your American culture would be a different task in the 1960s than in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, or even today. While some characters defined themselves largely by their culture, others tried to assimilate, and still found that their culture affected the way they lived their lives. Either way, I found all of the characters in the book to be relatable and interesting, which is hard to pull off in a book that covers so many generations.

This book is beautifully written, but listening to the audiobook version of this book made reading extra enjoyable because of the narrator’s Indian accent.

If you enjoy this book, you might also enjoy When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.

MB

Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success



Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success
By Rory Vaden
Perigee Book, 2012. 212 pgs. Nonfiction

Rory Vaden is an incredibly successful person, and motivational speaker. In this quick read on self management, he answers the question of how to be successful in 7 steps: sacrifice, commitment, focus, integrity, schedule, faith, and action. What you will find in common with all Rory's principles is that there is nothing truly magical about them. He says it all in the title "taking the stairs" rather than "riding an escalator" metaphorically speaking is how we can change and become successful people.

If you really enjoyed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  you will like reading this. I felt a lack of motivation recently in school, and this reminded me that I should make choices that stretch me. The only way to have it all pay off is to put in the time and dedication. This books sparks motivation as well through Rory's personal experiences that have shaped his character. When you read about him you realize he is not privileged in any way, but has achieved great things by not taking any short cuts.

MM

Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls
By Martha Hall Kelly
New York: Ballantine Books, 2016. 487 pgs. Fiction

This World War II historical fiction is about three women, whose lives will come together as a result of the war. There is Caroline Ferriday who works with aiding orphanages in France, Kasia Kuzmerick a Polish prisoner  at the Ravensbruck concentration camp, and Herta Oberheuser a doctor at Ravensbruck. Although this is a fiction book it is based on the true of the prisoners of Ravensbruck.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was powerful in helping me to understand the trauma that happened to these particular prisoners at Ravensbruck. Throughout the book I did not understand how Caroline's story fit in with the other two narratives, but Kelly did a great job at pulling the story together at the end. Martha Hall Kelly's website provides some great sources that helped in writing the book, which I read through in-depth wanting to know more about these stories of World War II.

MM

Monday, May 28, 2018

Spelled

Spelled
By Betsy Schow
Sourcebooks Fire, 2015. 344 pgs. Young Adult Fantasy

When Dorthea, the Princess of the Emerald Kingdom, makes a poorly worded wish in a bout of anger, she destroys the rules of magic. Her parents have been sent to a strange place called “Kansas” and the kingdom’s head sorceress has disappeared. With the help of the kitchen maid, Rexi, and the broody Prince Kato, Dorthea must try to reverse the curse and prevent the wickedest witch from escaping her icy prison.

I enjoyed all of the fun easter eggs and tidbits that the author included connecting the land of Oz and fairy tale stories. It was refreshing to see Dorthea’s character development from a rich, spoiled princess to someone that you at least don’t want to kill. There were a few twists and turns that kept me guessing, and overall was a simple, fun read.

 TT

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Butterfly: from Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph

Butterfly: from Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph
By Yusra Mardini
St. Martin’s Press. 2018. 284 pgs. Biography

Yusra Mardini is from Syria, where from a young age she trained as a swimmer. As a young person she represented Syria at various international competitions and cherished a dream to someday swim for Syria at the Olympics. Then in 2015, after her family’s home was destroyed in the civil war that engulfed Syria and Damascus became an increasingly dangerous place to live, she and her sister Sara fled. Her book recounts their dangerous and grueling journey through Turkey, Greece, Hungary, and Serbia to Germany. Along the way she encountered reporters who were writing about the refugee crisis and wanted to photograph and interview her. Germany welcomed the refugees but life was still very hard until she found a swim coach who helped her start training again and find a place to live. Struggling with the one word identity “refugee,” she almost passed up a chance to swim in the 2016 Olympics on a refugee team, but encouraged by her parents, her coach and her newspaper and television contacts she decided to compete. Since then she has become the youngest ever Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and has embraced her identity as a refugee in order to speak for the thousands like her who have fled war and only want peace and a normal life. This is an inspiring read for adults and young adults. SH

We Two: Victoria and Albert, Rulers, Partners, Rivals

By Gillian Gill
Ballantine Books, 2009. 480 pages. Biography.

It was a love affair that would define an era. The marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was the most influential of the nineteenth century, and yet it didn’t begin so auspiciously. When they first met, neither one found much to be interested in, Victoria was willful and Albert was shy and awkward. But when they met again in 1839, Victoria found that Albert had grown into a beautiful, cultured, accomplished man. She proposed three days later.

Both were looking for a strong, intimate relationship based on trust and love, one like they had never experienced in their childhoods. Yet each one had yet to learn the art of compromise. Gill chronicles the passionate and complicated marriage of two strong-willed and dynamic people who would come to influence not only the country they ruled, but the world.

This biography is a joy to read. It isn’t dry or interminable. Gill creates vivid portraits of not only the Queen and her prince, but also their families and ministers. Anyone who likes Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria : a novel or the movie The Young Victoria will enjoy this biography. AG

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery

Rhett and Link’s Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, and Tomfoolery
By Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal
Crown Archetype, 2017. 269 pages

If you frequent YouTube, you might be familiar with the net’s most popular “internetainers” Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, creators of the internet show Good Mythical Morning. This book is part biography, part field guide, and part mythical beast all its own. Inside you will find such treasures as: a flow chart for dealing with road rage, photo-diagrams for creating signature dance moves, a humor-compatibility multiple choice quiz to take with your friends, a character building board game, tips for writing your own eulogy, and much more. In addition you get to know Rhett and Link a little better through anecdotes of their childhood and personal lives.

I was not sure what to expect when I first cracked this one open. Don’t get me wrong—I love Rhett and Link and their show Good Mythical Morning. I watch pretty faithfully. I just wasn’t prepared for how this book would steal past my defenses and straight into my heart. Not only is this book hilarious and entertaining, but also surprisingly inspiring. Each chapter focuses on bettering your life and your relationships by having fun and being creative. Plus, Rhett & Link’s lifelong friendship is pretty inspirational in itself. Though a book with two grown men submerged in a giant bowl of cereal on the cover may seem juvenile, this book will delight readers of all ages.

ALL

Children of Blood and Bone

Cover image for Children of blood and bone
Children of Blood and Bone
By Tomi Adeyemi
Henry Holt and Co, 2018, 531 pages, Young Adult Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Zélie, her older brother Tzain, and rogue princess Amari fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi, but they are ruthlessly pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy.

Children of Blood and Bone is arguably this year’s hottest young adult novel, and I’m happy to say that this book is not over-hyped. This is a compelling epic fantasy with world building based on Africa and various African cultures, which automatically makes this book unique and appealing. I also enjoyed that the characters in the book are flawed, but they are all trying to do the right thing. This book does fall victim to a few YA tropes, but for the most part the pacing is tight and I really enjoyed all of the plot twists (including one at the end, which has me anxious for the sequel!). Older teens who liked last year’s Strange the Dreamer, or any other epic fantasy, will love this book.

MB

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly

One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly
By Ashley Mae Hoiland
Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2016. 213 pgs. Nonfiction

Through original writing and illustrations, Hoiland explores the art of finding God. She uses personal musings, thoughts, and experiences to address her own journey on topics such as Grace, Redemption, Laughter, Zion, Tradition, and more. Hoiland makes a case that creativity, adventure, and laughter are just as important as faith, hope, and charity when striving to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. She questions attitudes, concepts, and principles that are ingrained in LDS culture, and whether they benefit or hinder growth and understanding about the divine.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It made me examine my own beliefs and thoughts on a variety of topics, while encouraging action. The author is a real person who is very relatable as a mother, woman, and member of the LDS faith. I felt that she understands many of my challenges and struggles, and made me want to deepen my own relationship with the divine and broaden my understanding. It was a great balance between stretching and growth without becoming preachy or condemning.

TT

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Raven's Shadow

Raven's Shadow
by Patricia Briggs
Ace Fantasy, 2004, 334 pgs. Science Fiction

Seraph is a Traveler her particular order is Raven who has magical capabilities, when her clan is killed by plague and her brother by superstitious town folk . She is spared from the same fate by the retired soldier Tier who happened to be passing by at the same time. Tier has now been kidnapped and Seraph is on a quest to save her husband from the mages who grabbed him.

I really enjoyed this duology. All of the characters had beautiful development without the plot dragging. I loved the magic system in the series and I love the growth that the characters went through as they were developing. I found the plot engaging and I loved listening to it.

MH

Space Opera

Space Opera
By Catherynne M. Valente
Saga Press, 2018. 304 pgs. Science Fiction

Hailed as a cross between The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Eurovision, this is a rollicking, rocking romp through the galaxy as Earth finally looks up to meet the rest of the galactic family.

While humans were learning to make tools and get into arguments with one another, a greater war was being waged in the galaxy. The Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and the aftermath created a curious tradition, once every cycle the civilizations of the galaxy gather together for the Metagalactic Grand Prix. It is part clash of the gladiators, part beauty pageant, and part epic singing contest.

The stakes are high; the contestants and their species who fail to score higher than at least one of the other participants will be annihilated and their planetary resources will be seized. The fate of the Earth lies in the hands of a washed up rocker named Decibel Jones and his rag-tag band The Absolute Zeroes.

Fans of Valente will revel in her rich descriptions and intricate dialogue. This book is a love letter to glitter, lipstick, silver jumpsuits, and platform shoes. Hailing back to the fabulous 1970s and with larger than life characters, this book is ridiculous—ridiculously good.

AG