Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Copperhead

Copperhead, Vol. 1: A New Sheriff in Town TP  
By Jay Faerber
Image Comics, 2015. 128 pgs. Graphic Novel. Science Fiction
Clara Benson, single mother and tough as nails cop, lands a job as the new sheriff on a dusty back-water hole of a planet in the wake of an interstellar war. Here and there the reader gets tidbits of backstory- mention of artificial humans created to fight battles, aliens bitter about the conquest, a separate peace treaty with the mysterious natives- but the real meat of Copperhead lays in Clara’s constant upheaval of the town’s expectations.

Every character in Copperhead’s cast gets a full personality; without dwelling overlong on exposition, Faerber manages to develop motivations and personalities that leave the reader wanting more. Copperhead leans on common tropes for Westerns (Dukes of Hazard fans will recognize the Boss Hogg breed of kingpin), but the science fiction setting throws them into new and fresh light. The artwork is clear and beautiful, and works well with the script to show the deep emotions of the rough characters. Copperhead has action, mystery, and deep family loyalty woven throughout; it is one of my favorite graphic novels. 

JMS

Mind Your Manors

Mind Your Manors: Tried-and-True British Household Cleaning Tips 
by Lucy Lethbridge
W.W. Norton & Company, 2016. 114 pgs. Nonfiction

Housework has gone through many changes and revolutions since the 1800s and 1900s. After researching the various cleaning methods from the servants of those ages, the author has created a general guide to how British housekeeping was managed in the large manor houses. Topics include dusting, laundry, managing pests, bathrooms, and more. How did these estates stay clean without today’s often used chemicals? Simple ingredients that people still use today.

I have to admit, I was hoping for more from this book. It wasn’t a complete disappointment, but it did fall far short of my expectations. Each chapter felt very much like a history lesson, but clear instructions on how to apply these methods in households today were lacking. I did find, and try, a recipe to help keep drains clear by using baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water, but I don’t know how effective it was yet. I could see fans of shows like Downton Abbey enjoying this history lesson this book provides, but instructions for practical application are very limited.

ACS

Passenger 19

Passenger 19 
by Ward Larsen
Oceanview Publishing, 2016. 328 pgs. Mystery

Jammer Davis has spent most of his life investigating aircraft accidents, but when he’s asked to look into a crash in the heart of the Colombian jungle, the investigation has stakes higher than any he’s ever experienced before, and not only because his daughter was on the plane that crashed. When the bodies of two passengers (including his daughter) can’t be found, and aspects of the plane crash don’t point to a mechanical failure, Davis starts to investigate further. The investigation takes him far beyond a simple plane crash and into the murky world of politics and scandals.

I realized that it was probably poor judgement on my part to read a book about a plane crash days before I take a plane trip of my own. That aside, I really enjoyed this book. The characters were interesting and well developed. Elements that seemed too convenient bothered me at first, but were later explained in a satisfying way. Though the book doesn’t reference any current politicians, it feels timely because politics do heavily affect the investigation. I can easily recommend this book, and am glad I read it.

 ACS

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Great American Whatever

The Great American Whatever
by Tim Federle
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 274 pages. Young Adult.

Quinn dreamed that he and his sister would become one of the great Hollywood movie making teams, but everything changed after she was killed in an accident. To encourage Quinn to reenter the land of the living, his best friend drags him to a college party where he meets a cute guy. Now, he has to rediscover himself, and some truths about his sister, all the while re-imagining how he wants the screenplay of his life to turn out.

 I loved the way this book was narrated. Quinn describes his thought process and imagines scenarios cinematically, at times describing the goings on as though it were a screenplay instead of real life. Quinn knows movies, and the film references throughout the book made me smile. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a unique and enjoyable coming of age story.

RC

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, With Recipes

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, With Recipes
By Shauna Niequist
Zondervan, 2013. 285 pgs. Nonfiction

As the front flap of this book says, "Bread and Wine is a a collection of stories about life around the table--about family, friendships, and the meals that bring us together." This book was such a comfortable book to read, it felt like I was wrapped up in a warm blanket as I read about Shauna's life experiences.

I could almost taste the delicious food she described and since she included recipes, I can try some of them out myself! This is a book that has stayed with me over the months since I first read it. If you are looking for a thought provoking book, give this one a try.

AMM

Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution

Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution
By Shanna Swendson
Recorded Books, 2015. 320 pgs. Young Adult

Set in 1888, Verity Newton moves from her home to New York City to become a governess. She hasn't ever been a governess before, but with her spunky spirit and desire for adventure she gets along just fine. Verity begins working for a Magister family involving herself in the magical British upper-class. However, she also befriends a group of rebels who believe that steam power is the future, not magic. As she begins to spy for the rebels, yet also agreeing with the Magister's in some regards, her life really begins to be an adventure.

This steampunk alternate history novel was really fun! I'm anxious to see where the story leads. This book was filled with action, drama, and a little bit of romance. The audiobook reader was a little bit off-putting for me at first, but after a while I got used to her voice and really enjoyed listening to this book.

AMM

Tell Me Three Things

Tell Me Three Things
By Julie Buxbaum
Delacorte Press, 2016. 336 pgs. Young Adult

After losing her mother, gaining a stepmother and moving cross-country, Jessie is feeling lost. During her first week in Los Angeles, she receives an email from an anonymous fellow student calling himself Somebody/Nobody (SN) offering advice dodging the pitfalls of her new prep school. A few friends later and several weeks of relying on SN, she wants to meet. But will reality live up to her idea of Somebody/Nobody?

You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite movies and needless to say, I am drawn to the trope of the mysterious, unidentified pen pal. Jessie and SN are well-drawn characters you can’t help liking even if I correctly predicted SN's identity from the beginning. My favorite part of the novel is their funny and thoughtful text messages.

Despite the predictability and the at times forced teen drama, I still enjoyed the sweet and comical conclusion of this novel about two teens dealing with grief, identity and first love in a challenging social environment.

HSG

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane 
By Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Harper Teen, 2016. 491 pgs. Young Adult

Part comedy, part fantasy, and part romance, My Lady Jane is not what you would expect from a Lady Jane Grey retelling. Jane does become engaged to a stranger in his conspiracy to dethrone her cousin Edward, but this Jane doesn’t have to worry about that, because sometimes history itself needs a little retelling.

I would love to tell you more but I think it’s best to go into this Princess Bride-like book with as little background as possible. The narrator asides, which appear in parentheses throughout the text, are hilarious. What made this work for me, however, were the characters, who are as well-developed as the witty, tongue-in-cheek tone. I could easily connect to Jane, Gifford, and Edward, who are equally nuanced in their alternating chapters. One of the most unexpected and charming books I’ve read this year, I would happily recommend My Lady Jane to adults and young-adults-at-heart alike.

HSG

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Tea Book: All Things Tea

The Tea Book: All Things Tea
by Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby
New York: Sterling Epicure, 2015. 208 pages. NonFiction.

Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, second only to water? Or that people in Turkey drink the most tea per person, but China holds the record as the largest consumer of tea overall? I learned these and a slew of other fun facts from this fabulously informative book, The Tea Book: All Things Tea.

This book contains a lot more than a dry, boring history of tea, though it does cover that topic in vibrant detail. I thoroughly enjoyed the breakdown of tea culture in different countries and the rituals and ceremonies that have surrounded and involved tea through the ages. Additionally, it includes tips for tea tasting, best practices for steeping and preparing tea, and recipes- all of which sounded delicious! This book made my tea loving heart soar with it’s whimsical, almost infographic style illustrations, and tid bits about tea drinkers around the world. I’d recommend this beautiful, unique, and informative book for any fellow aspiring tea mavens and think it would be best enjoyed with your favorite cup of tea.

RC

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wheel of Oshiem

The Wheel of Osheim
By Mark Lawrence
Penguin Publishing Group, 2016. 432 Pages. Science Fiction

The conclusion to Mark Lawrence's second trilogy set in the world of Jorg Ancrath, Wheel of Oshiem brings back the erstwhile Prince Jalan and resolves his quest to save his sister from the clutches of the Dead King. With more responsibility than ever before thrust upon him, Prince Jalan defends his city from the undead horde, saves a caravan from the detonation of a "Builder's Sun", and saves a childhood friend from slavers. The story is interspersed with flashbacks telling of Jalan's journey through the underworld and the revelations he finds there.

Prince Jalan, despite spending the previous two books an avowed and practiced coward, receives a great deal of character development. In previous installments he mainly serves as a foil to his Norse friend Snorri as Snorri journeys through the stages of grief, but now Jalan is forced to deal with the grief in his own past and finds there is courage buried in his heart. The Wheel of Osheim's conclusion will not surprise readers of the Broken Empire series, but it will fill in some details of the story. The main draw is the growth of Jalan into something greater than he was.

JMS

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Outrun the Moon

Cover image for Outrun the moon
Outrun the Moon
By Stacey Lee
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2016, 391 pages, Young Adult Fiction

In San Francisco, Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from poverty in Chinatown, and she gains admittance to a prestigious finishing school through a mix of cunning and bribery. She soon discovers that getting in was the easiest part, and must carve a niche among the spoiled heiresses. When the earthquake strikes on April 18, 1906, Mercy and her classmates are forced to a survivor encampment, but her quick-witted leadership rallies them to help in the tragedy's aftermath.

Stacey Lee’s first book, Under a Painted Sky, was one of my favorite reads of 2015. I’ve been waiting for this book to come out with great anticipation. I love that Lee is consciously writing about historic events from diverse viewpoints, and I enjoyed seeing the world through the lens of a different culture. This book is almost two different stories: The tale of a determined young Chinese American girl trying to make her way in the world, and the tale of how San Francisco was affected by the infamous earthquake and subsequent fires. While this book deals with events that are more tragic than those that happen in Under a Painted Sky, I still liked the hopeful message and gladly recommend it.

MB

This Is the Story of You

Cover image for This Is the Story of You
This is the Story of You
By Beth Kephart
Chronicle Books, 2016, 258 pages, Young Adult Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Mira lives on a small island off the coast of New Jersey. When a devastating superstorm strikes she will face the storm's wrath and the destruction it leaves behind alone.

I love the way Beth Kephart writes. Her sentences are usually short and choppy, but they contain the most beautiful imagery. You feel more like you’re reading a poem than a novel, but it still stays fairly accessible. In this book, Kephart’s writing helps to evoke the crowding emotions involved in a horrific natural disaster. She conveys the beauty and horror of the destruction, and the sorrow of the survivors as well as their determination to see things through.

MB

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn
by Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016. 416 pgs. Young Adult

Shahrzad has one goal: to avenge her best friend Shiva by assassinating Khalid, the young Caliph of Khorasan. Though she knows Khalid kills each of his wives the morning after marrying them, she volunteers to become his next bride, hoping to get close enough to kill the monstrous king. Delaying her death by telling him stories until dawn, Shahrzad slowly uncovers Khalid’s secrets, learning to love him against her will. Be prepared for a cliffhanger ending, since The Wrath and the Dawn’s sequel, The Rose and the Dagger was recently released.

Though some things bothered me about The Wrath and the Dawn, I would still recommend it to fans of young adult retellings. Renee Ahdieh’s generally beautiful writing can be repetitive at times, especially in her constant descriptions of Khalid’s “tiger eyes” and Shahrzad’s clothing and elfin face. The initial romance between the two characters felt unexplained, given that Shazi begins to love Khalid without any explanation or apology for her friend’s murder. In spite of those complaints, I wanted to keep reading, and I plan to read the sequel. Ahdieh creates a well-developed world and introduces many aspects of Middle Eastern culture in an accessible way. I can also say that I would have loved this book as a teenager.

A warning to careful readers and parents that there are a few non-explicit sexual scenes and references throughout the novel.

SR

Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl
by Anne Tyler
Hogarth, 2016. 240 pgs. Fiction

In this modernized retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kate Battista lives her life largely as her scientist father dictates. In accordance with his instructions, she makes nutritious but tasteless meals for the family, cares for the house, and tries to reign in her rebellious teenage sister. Her lack of tact has created problems for her at school, at work, and with friends, and she now struggles to keep her job as a preschool assistant while she lives at home. Though not happy, Kate never examines her life too closely until her father asks her to marry his laboratory assistant, whose work visa will soon expire.

There is a lot to like about Vinegar Girl. This was my first Anne Tyler read, and I fell head over heels in love with her voice. Her critically acclaimed career has been built on her wry observations about everyday people, and I often found her writing laugh out loud funny. Kate was an unusual protagonist for a novel, since she’s not especially self-aware or introspective, but I enjoyed the novelty of her character. I also felt like Tyler reimagined The Taming of the Shrew’s plot, a difficult story to modernize, in an ingenious way.

I wanted a little more of something from this short novel, but I’m not sure in the slightest what it is. More complexity? More character development? I really don’t know. Maybe I just wish it were longer so I could keep on reading.

SR

Friday, July 1, 2016

Detective Fiction

Detective Fiction 
by William Wells
The Permanent Press, 2016. 224 pgs. Mystery

When Jack Starkey retired from the Chicago PD, he thought he was done with being a homicide detective. He moved down to Fort Myers Beach in Florida and now lives on a boat. However, retirement has started to feel pretty boring so when the local police force approaches him with the opportunity for an undercover assignment, he jumps at the chance. He’s thrust into the world of the social elite and is suddenly surrounded by beautiful women, expensive cars, high-class dining, and murder. Is this the work of a serial killer, or someone with a specific agenda? It’s hard to tell, and people are still dying…

This was a fun, light read. Jack Starkey serves as inspiration and an editor for his friend who is a journalist and author of detective novels. Fans of the TV show Castle might find this book particularly enjoyable as they read about a “real life” situation, and then later read an “excerpt” from the novel, similar to how episodes of Castle played out. I enjoyed watching the struggles of an average middle-class man being thrust into high-class society and how he struggled with it, all while trying to solve the murders. I can easily recommend this to readers looking for an enjoyable mystery. The ending was left open for potential sequels, and they’re something I’ll look forward to.

ACS

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
by Box Brown
First Second, 2014. 240 pgs. Graphic Novel

Andre Roussimoff, better known as Andre the Giant, was known both for his role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride and for his work and showmanship as a pro-wrestler.  At his peak he weighed 500 pounds and stood nearly seven and a half feet tall.  But his gigantism ultimately ended up costing him years of pain and eventually, his life.  This graphic novel draws from historical records and interviews to paint a picture of this little understood figure.

The author has a real love of the world of pro-wrestling and lovingly recalls moments of excitement and drama from critical matches in Andre's career.  But the book fails to tell the rest of Andre's story with much insight.  It ends up being more of an episodic collection of stories about him.  It's interesting, though, to learn more about the life of this man who so many of us know of but whom we know little about.

BHG

Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants
By Sylvain Neuvel
Random House, 2016. 373 pgs. Science Fiction

On her eleventh birthday, Rose Franklin leaves her home in Deadwood, South Dakota to go for a bike. Rose suddenly falls through the earth and accidentally discovers the most important artifact of all time – a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, Rose is an accomplished physicist at the University of Chicago when the artifact finds its way back into her life. Now, with the help of a renegade military pilot and an conceited linguist, Rose must unlock the mysteries behind this artifact and decipher what it might say about those who left it behind.

Sleeping Giants is Sylvain Neuvel’s debut novel, and it is fantastic! This book has already been compared to The Martian and World War Z. The story is told through mission logs, journal entries, and most often through interviews between the main characters and a mysterious interviewer. Because of this format, the reader finds out about key plot points after they've already happened. Despite this removal from the action, the story is extremely compelling and thought provoking. Neuvel kept me guessing right up until the end, and left me anxiously awaiting the sequel -- Waking Gods.

CNC

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Invaded

Invaded
by Melissa Landers
Hyperion, 2015. Young Adult 356 pgs.

In this sequel to Alienated, Cara has been shipped off to be an exchange student on Aelyx’s home planet, L’eihr, but Aelyx must remain on Earth to try to improve human-L’eihr relations. Like in the first book where we get to see what humans customs are like through the austere eyes of alien Aelyx, now we get to see what L’eihr is like through human eyes. As if the strict school curriculum and social isolation in her new home weren’t enough to deal with, Cara begins to notice odd things happening on L’eihr and a possible cover-up some of the members of the Way that leaves her suspicious of their true motives. Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx narrowly escapes several attempts on his life as he too becomes begins to suspect something is amiss with his superiors.

The mystery as to why the L’eihr are determined to form an alliance with Earth who are their inferiors in every way keeps the plot moving and the chemistry between Aelyx and Cara smolders from a distance. This is a fun read with spunky characters and a creative take on extraterrestrials.

AJ

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
By Greg McKeown
Crown Business, 2014. 260 pgs. Nonfiction

If you are looking for a straight forward approach to simplifying your life, give this book a try. McKeown, an MBA graduate from Stanford and a motivational speaker succinctly explains how we can start taking control over our own lives. Rather than continually adding to our to-do lists, we need to be more selective in what we say yes to. Although this may be hard at first, in the end we will be happier and more successful.

I enjoyed listening to the author read this book. I found myself agreeing with him on many points and evaluating how I can improve my own life by being selective in what I let into my sphere of influence. The author focuses on how to implement these practices primarily in the business world, but the principles definitely apply to all aspects of our lives.Now comes the hard work of putting these things into practice!

AMM

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sword Art Online: Aincrad

Sword Art Online: Aincrad
by Reki Kawahara
Yen Press, 2014. 378 pgs. Graphic Novel

In the near future virtual reality gaming has progressed to become a fully immersive experience through NerveGear, a system that uses signals in the brain to simulate all five senses. The first MMORPG to take advantage of this unique system is Sword Art Online. On the day of its launch, everything seems to be going well, until players realize they can’t log out. They’re stuck in the game until all 100 levels have been beaten, and death in the game will cause them to die in the real world. With 10,000 people stuck in this virtual reality world, how many will make it out alive?

Sword Art Online started out as a Japanese light novel, and has since become a manga series and anime. I saw the anime before I read the manga so I was familiar with the story already. It's exciting and interesting that really makes you think about the future of virtual reality and where the virtual might become a little too real. That being said, this volume is very specifically the main story arc and doesn’t include any of the side stories, though some are very briefly mentioned, which gives this volume a somewhat incomplete feeling. For fans of either the anime or novel this is an easy recommendation. For everyone else, I think it might be missing a little too much.

ACS

The Crown's Game

The Crown’s Game
Evelyn Skye
HarperCollins Publishers, 2016. 399 pages. Young Adult

In 1825 Russia, with unrest among the Kazakhs and the Ottoman Empire pressing from the South, the Tsar needs more help than his army and advisors can provide. Though few still believe in magic, Russia still has the ability to call an Imperial Enchanter. The problem is, there are currently two enchanters, Vika Andreyevna who has been training her entire life to become Imperial Enchanter and Nikolai Karimov, best friend to the Tsarevich, Pasha, but who does not know of Nikolai’s ability. Because their powers come from the same source, only one can become Imperial Enchanter and wield this incredible power. To decide who will become Imperial Enchanter, the Tsar sets in motion the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill where each enchanter must show his or her inventiveness and strength. The victor will be declared the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. For the loser--instant death.

This is not just a typical duel to the death. Vika and Nikolai take turns crafting imaginative exhibitions throughout St. Petersburg to honor of the Tsarevich for his upcoming birthday. Each creation, however, also has some sort of trick to attack the other Enchanter. However, as Vika and Nikolai show their inventiveness and skill, they begin to fall in love with each other. Despite their attraction, there is no way to get out of the Crown's Game without someone dying.

Stunningly imagined, this extraordinary story has everything from vividly described acts of magic to political intrigue, romance, and drama. Reminiscent of The Night Circus, this book is atmospheric and over-the-top, but it has been one of the most enjoyable reads of the year so far.

AJ

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Forbidden Orchid

The Forbidden Orchid
By Sharon Biggs Waller
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016. 416 pgs. Young Adult

Elodie Buchanon lives in a small English village, where she cares for her frail mother and nine younger sisters. Her father, a famous naturalist, spends most of the year exploring the globe in search of rare flowers. Elodie shares his passion for botany and adventure, but Victorian society demands that she remain at home and give up her interest in orchids. When her father refuses to return to his family after a mysterious tragedy, Elodie embarks on a journey that takes her around the world to save him.

Maybe I’ve just been in a good reading mood lately, but I really enjoyed The Forbidden Orchid. I had a little trouble getting into it at first, but once I switched from the print version to the audiobook, it was smooth sailing. Elodie is a likeable character who is an interesting mix of traditional and adventurous, and I felt like reader Katherine McEwan was a great choice for her voice. I enjoyed watching Elodie grow throughout the story, and I was fascinated by the thorough historical detail about nineteenth century China and England. A leisurely-paced but interesting YA historical novel from the author of A Mad, Wicked Folly.

SR

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
By Jon Krakauer
Anchor, 1997. 337 pgs. Nonfiction

On May 10, 1996, only Martin Adams, an experienced airplane pilot, recognized the crowns of thunderheads in the cumulonimbus clouds rolling up the summit of Everest. Writer-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, like the others, saw only harmless skies during his brief stay on top of the world. Eight climbers would die that day and several others would narrowly escape with their lives. Up until 2014, the disaster was the deadliest in Everest’s history.

After seeing the recent movie about this disaster called Everest, I became fascinated by the tragedy and wanted to know more. There isn't a better-written first-hand account than Krakauer’s, who is a journalist and one of only two climbers on his team who reached the top and survived the descent. He gives just enough backstory on the critical players to engage the reader but not enough to slow the story down. Gripping, haunting, and well-researched, this is nonfiction at its best.

HSG

You Are Here

You Are Here
By Jennifer E. Smith
Simon & Schuster, 2012. 251 pgs. Young Adult

Emma has always felt different from the rest of her family. Her siblings are quite a bit older than she is and have moved away from home. Meanwhile, her parents are both very involved in their careers as professors at the local collage. When Emma finds a birth certificate in the attic for a twin brother she has never know about, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Emma travels with the boy next door from New York to North Carolina to discover what she can about her brother and learns a lot about herself along the way.

I've loved everything I've ever read by Jennifer E. Smith and this book was no exception. This is a light summer read!

AMM

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
By Sarah Vowell
Riverhead Books, 2015. 274 pgs. Biography

Sarah Vowell is my favorite history teacher.  She never takes her subject too seriously and manages to dig up all the juicy bits making the past seem much more real and relatable.  In her newest book, she tells of the teenaged General Lafayette whose search for honor and glory leads him to the battlefields of the American Revolution.

Lafayette’s journey introduces him to compatriots like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and a host of his countrymen when he returns to France for its revolution.  These are all familiar topics but Vowell masterfully uses original letters to allow these historic characters to tell their stories, in their words, without the gloss of retelling.

Everyone’s definition of a “beach read” is a little different, but this is my favorite kind.  Not too long, incredibly interesting, the right amount of humor, and the perfect pace for leisurely reading.  I actually listened to the audio version of this book and recommend it.  Sarah Vowell narrates it herself and her tone is perfect.

CZ


America's First Daughter

America's First Daughter
By Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
William Morrow, 2016. 590 pgs. Historical Fiction

Authors Dray and Kamoie consulted thousands of letters and primary documents while researching for this rich historical novel of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter.

Patsy was a fascinating woman whose life provides a unique perspective of the early days of our country.  Her father’s legacy was larger than life even while he lived and Patsy grew up with the eyes of a nation constantly upon her.  But, the sacrifices and struggles of her life were brought on as much by personal loss as by the upheaval caused by the revolution.

America’s First Daughter presents Patsy as a complex and conflicted personality.  She is vividly described along with the turbulent time she lived in.  A wonderful novel with substance, worthy of the woman it depicts.

CZ

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel
By George RR Martin
Jet City Comics (November 5, 2013) 184 Pages, Graphic Novel

The history of Westeros comes to life in this adaptation of the Knight of Seven Kingdoms stories by GRR Martin. A squire's itinerant master dies, but not before knighting him 'Sir' Dunk. Dunk tries to enter a tournament of the realm to prove his strength and skill before his poverty catches up with him. Dunk's sense of honor is repeatedly tested as the landed knights and lords fail to live up to the chivalric code they are all sworn to uphold. 
The graphic novel medium can be a hard adjustment for some authors, but Martin adapts well, allowing the dialogue to flow unstunted and clearly. As one of the uninitiated to the world of Westeros, it was easy for me to care about Dunk and his erstwhile squire, Egg. The political appeal of Game of Thrones is still present, but the focus of the story is how a poor and obscure knight rises to meet the challenge of living virtuously in a world of intrigue and excess. Old fans and new of GRR Martin will enjoy this look into the history of the quest for the Iron Throne.

JMS

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Gathering of Shadows


A Gathering of Shadows
By V.E. Schwab
Tor Books, 2016. 512 pgs. Science Fiction

In an alternate world where parallel Londons exist – magicless Gray London, magically-balanced Red London, magical chaotic White London, and magic-overran Black London – there is only one magician left who can travel between the worlds, and that is Kell.

It’s been four months since Kell destroyed the mysterious obsidian stone, and his life has been purposeless since. The king keeps him on a short leash and Kell dreams constantly about dark magic and Lila, the enigmatic thief who walked away as soon as the stone was gone. But with the Element Games about to begin in Red London, she, along with some of their old enemies, won’t be able to resist the festivities, and Kell and Lila will be facing dark magic together once again.

This follow-up to A Darker Shade of Magic has a different feel than its predecessor but never falls into common middle-book pitfalls such as being filler or set-up for the final book in the trilogy. The games gave Schwab a chance to flesh out her Londons and the different races within them as well as giving the characters a chance to come into their own. Even without the cliffhanger, I will impatiently await the next book.

HSG

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Queen of fashion: what Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution

Queen of fashion : what Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution
By Caroline Weber
Holt, 2006. 412 pages. Nonfiction, biography.


In a unique approach to biography, Caroline Weber applies Marie Antoinette’s interest in fashion to tell the story of her life. This tragic queen’s life is punctuated with interesting fashion choices and became both her means of expressing power and her ultimate downfall. Beginning with her arrival to Versailles as a young girl, and ending with her death during the French Revolution, we see Antoinette’s human and courageous side as she faces internal and foreign political opponents. This books adds a new facet to Marie Antoinette scholarship and tells her tale in a very approachable, almost novel-like readability.

I had a very skeptical view of Marie Antoinette before this book but Weber’s biography gives new light to why this French queen behaved as she did, and more importantly why she dressed how she dressed. I grew more sympathetic towards Antoinette and even though I knew she would be killed, I dreaded and mourned that outcome as the book progressed. Learning how fashion choices can shape culture and political outcomes is especially fascinating to me because it is an ever present undercurrent of society but so often discredited or forgotten. I would recommend this book to those interested in a more scholarly biography or an interest in fashion, French history, art history, or influential women.

LP

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Forever and Forever: The Courtship of Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton

Forever and Forever: The Courtship of Henry Longfellow and Fanny Appleton
By Josi S. Kilpack
Shadow Mountain, 2016. 327 pgs. Romance

Fanny Appleton is nineteen and on a European tour with her upper-class family when she first meets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He is 10 years older than her and still grieving the death of his first wife. She enjoys the conversations she shares with him and the value he puts in her intellect but she does not let her heart feel anything more for him. She has suffered too much pain already because of the recent deaths of her mother and brother. Henry, on the other hand, is in love. He can't stop thinking of Fanny and wants very much to pursue a relationship with her. She makes it very plain to Henry that he is below her level of consideration for a future spouse and she does not want any kind of relationship with him. Henry does not give up easily though, and he is willing to wait patiently for Fanny to change her mind.

I enjoyed this most recent addition to the Proper Romance line of books by Shadow Mountain Publishing. I honestly did not know much about Henry Longfellow before this book. Josi Kilpack thoroughly researched her characters and provided a chapter by chapter explanation at the back of the book that tells what is fact and what she had to make up in order to carry the story forward. I love watching characters change over the course of a book and this is definitely the case in Forever and Forever.

AL