Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Thing with Feathers

The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human
By Noah Strycker
Riverhead Books, 2014. 304 pages. Nonfiction

Strycker takes a look at several interesting bird species and qualities in them that humans can both relate to and learn from.  Strycker's fascinating stories include the extraordinary memories of nutcrackers, the feisty nature of hummingbirds, the artistic tendencies of bower birds, the stratified social structures of chicken flocks, the altruism of fairy-wrens, and the way that the albatross will mate for life.  Strycker believes that by studying why birds do what they do, it can offer insights into our own nature as humans.

This was a fun read that will appeal to birders and those who like reading nature books.  I enjoyed Strycker's fascinating information about different bird species, though his connections to our own nature as humans sometimes felt a bit disjointed.  I'd recommend this more for the interesting information about the amazing things birds can do rather than the enlightenment about humanity itself, though there are some compelling comparisons here.


The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter
By Margareta Mangusson
Scribner, 2018. 117 pages. Nonfiction

Mangusson explains how going through your possessions before the end of life helps to both relieve you from the obligation of caring for them in your final years and relieves your family from having to make decisions about those items after you are gone.  While it may sound a bit morbid, Mangusson indeed handles the subject gently as the title suggests.  However, this book isn't just for those in their later years.  Her instructions are applicable for those in any time of life, especially readers who may need a  little motivation for freeing themselves from the burden of too many possessions.  When you consider your things from the perspective of not being able to take them with you after this life, it casts them in a different light and makes letting go a little easier.

Fans of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up will find renewed inspiration from reading this short but sweet book.  Mangusson mixes sensible advice with personal examples of items that she had tender memories of and yet in the end sent on to new, more practical homes.  These stories both illustrate her points and gently help readers find a way to let go of their own cherished items if it's not practical to keep them any longer.  I listened to the audiobook and the narrator's voice has the perfect mix of quiet dignity and tenderness that turns an uncomfortable subject to one of acceptance and peace.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School 
by Kathleen Flinn
Viking Adult, 2007. 285 pages. Nonfiction

Kat Flinn, age 36, is an American working and living in London. When she is informed, very politely, that she no longer has a job, she decides to cash in her savings and move to France to study at Le Cordon Bleu. What follows is an insider view of the famous cooking school. Flinn documents her struggles to earn a diploma with her barely adequate French. She also describes her journey into love with her best friend. She ends each chapter with the recipes she learned to make while in the program.

This book reminded be so much of My Life in France by Julia Child. Both Flinn and Child came late to their careers in cooking. Both of them fell in love in France and with France while cooking at Le Cordon Bleu. This book also reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a book about finding your way, and taking the leap of faith, and figuring out who you are. The descriptions of the food are mouthwatering and the characterization of all the people she met while at school is fantastic. You really feel like you are there with her and can smell the butter sizzling in the hot pan.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Sleepless Vol. 1

by Sarah Vaughn
Image Comics, 2019. 168 pgs. Young Adult Comics

Following the death of her father, the King, Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia must survive the dangers of court life. Thankfully, she is protected by the Sleepless Knight Cyrenic, but soon Poppy’s life becomes endangered as someone seeks to have her assassinated. Will Poppy and Cyrenic learn who wants her dead before the assassin succeeds, and will they ever admit their growing feelings towards each other?

This was a fantastic read with strong female characters, intriguing mystical powers, and a mystery. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. One of the things that I liked the most about this comic was the diverse characters. There is a range of races, ethnicities, abilities, and religions presented in a way that feels authentic to the story. They have a variety of motivations and reactions that help build the story and challenge the main characters. If you enjoy stories with strong female characters, beautiful artwork, or unique fantasy elements, this is a great fit.


When You Read This

Cover image for When you read this : a novel
When You Read This
by Mary Adkins
Harper, 2019, 376 pages, General Fiction

For four years Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. When Iris is taken by terminal illness at only 33, Smith is surprised to discover Iris left him a final request: for Smith to publish her blog as a book. Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris' big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who's been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

When You Read This is an interesting take on the epistolary novel. Instead of carefully crafted letters, the reader gets bits of the story via a jumble of email messages, including spam; text messages; blog posts; and electronically-submitted essays meant to take the place of in-person therapy sessions. Although this is a romantic comedy in that it's obvious the two main characters will get together in the end, this book was mostly the story of two people dealing with grief. This combination of humor and sadness is delicately handled, and for me it hit just the right balance between the two. If you enjoyed books like Where’d You Go, Bernadette or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, you will also enjoy When You Read This.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Liar's Girl

Image result for the liar's girl book cover
The Liar's Girl
By Catherine Ryan Howard 
Blackstone Publishing, 2018. 336 pages. Mystery.

Alison can't wait to start her first year of university with her best friend at the prestigious St. John's in Dublin. Almost right away she meets the dreamy Will Hurley who seems to be the perfect boyfriend. Then first year girls start turning up dead in the canal nearby, and a general terror grips the campus. Then Alison's best friend turns up dead in the canal and Will admits to the murders. Unable to cope with the shame and grief of it all, Alison moves away to the Netherlands and starts her life anew. But ten years later, when Alison feels like she might be able to start moving on, the Dublin police show up on her doorstep. The Canal Killer is at it again. The police think Alison may be key to solving the current cases. Conflicted between her sense of self-preservation and her desire to save the young women in danger, Alison must decide if she can confront her past, or if she can live with herself if she stays.

This book had me gripped. It was full of suspense. The story alternated mainly between Alison's now point of view and her then point of view ten years earlier when she first started at St. John's. The audiobook was great to listen to because of all the Irish accents and the artistry in the story-telling. It made listening so much fun. I loved the characters, their relationships with each other, and their growth. Although I didn’t love the title, the back blurb piqued my interest and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. I had chills and was genuinely freaked out at several points during the book; however, I finished the book feeling satisfied with the story. There is some language in the book but it never felt excessive and was always appropriate to the situation. 


The Sun and Her Flowers

Image result for the sun and her flowersThe Sun and Her Flowers
By Rupi Kaur
Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2017. 256 pages. Nonfiction.

"this is the recipe of life 
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too 
must wilt
in order to bloom"

Rupi Kaur takes the reader on a transcendent journey through the different stages of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. It is a journey about growth and healing, ancestry and honoring one's roots and expatriation, and rising up to find a home within yourself. Kaur often mixes her succinct poems with simple, descriptive images. The effect is that the words and the art work together to enhance each other. This book is a celebration of love in all its forms.

Anyone who loved Milk and Honey is sure to love The Sun and Her Flowers. So many parts of this book resonated with my soul. The others gave me glimpses into experiences that I have never known and filled me with compassion for those who have. While Milk and Honey seemed to deal a little more with the challenges of being a woman and of the issues surrounding the female body (ie. mostly sexual abuse and body-image), this book--though these themes are still present--centers more on a self-journey of falling and then rediscovering oneself. Kaur displays a powerful blend of confidence and vulnerability. Respect and honor are apparent as she honestly explores her relationships with different family members and her own heritage.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

No Walls and the Recurring Dream

No Walls and the Recurring Dream
by Ani DiFranco Viking, 2019. 306 pages, Biography

Ani DiFranco, singer, songwriter, activist, feminist and all around “righteous babe” uses her talent for poetics in her new book to paint a picture of her early life, her influences, and her rise to folk singer stardom. Her signature wit and way with words shines from every page as she tells about being an emancipated teenager, and finding her way in the world through art, music, dance, and through kindness and connection with others. Her anecdotes about life on the road are comical and memorable, and her reflections on being a female in a male dominated profession are apt as ever.

Fans of DiFranco’s music will enjoy this deep dive into the iconic feminist folk singer’s songwriting process and her rise to prominence by bucking the traditional music and recording system, and doing things by the beat of her own drum (or guitar). For an extra treat, listen to the audiobook version read by DiFranco herself, to hear her poems as they should be heard- from her own lips to your ears.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God With Anything

Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God With Anything
By Emily Freeman
Ensign Peak, 2017. 168 pgs. Nonfiction

This book invites readers to do things in their everyday lives to have daily experiences with God. The author explains how God meets us in the unexpected and we have to be willing to recognize His hand in our lives, even when things aren't going how we want them to. It can be easy to doubt Gods goodness when terrible things are happening, but that is when we need to trust Him the most.

Emily Freeman shares many personal stories to illustrate times in her life when she has had to really come to know God through the struggles she has faced. The ideas in this book are amazing and could be very life changing. I struggled a little with Emily's writing style in this book. It was more like disjointed journal entries. Some were long, with lots of detail and other just hinted at the details of a story. That being said, I am still glad I listened to this book on Overdrive. An idea that has really stuck with me is that we often hold back and will not let ourselves be completely vulnerable with God. It is important that we work toward that type of relationship with Him. I also loved when she said that the place of deepest asking is where the believing begins.


The Truth About Miss Ashbourne

The Truth About Miss Ashbourne
By Joanna Barker
Covenant Communication, 2018. 252 pgs. Historical Romance

Juliana Ashbourne is a governess with big dreams of someday being able to save enough money to start her own school for girls. She endures working for horrible parents because she adores the two children she spends her days with. Just as her situation gets unbearable she discovers that her grandfather has died and she has inherited a fortune. The only problem is that this is the same grandfather that disowned her mother. Juliana has never met her relatives and the condition of her inheritance is that she must return to Havenfield, the family estate, and live with her extended family for thirty days. With few other choices, she goes to Havenfield hoping to endure the time so she can receive her money and move forward with her dreams. She doesn't expect to find a caring grandmother, a shy cousin that she connects with and the teasing Mr. William Rowley,  heir to the estate.

This debut novel by Joanna Barker was a sweet Regency romance that was well written and really captured me from the very beginning. I loved Juliana's character. She had a lot of unknowns in her life that made her vulnerable, but she faced her challenges and worked toward her passion for creating her school. William was the perfect swoon-worthy hero. He was honorable and kind but also knew how to tease Juliana to keep her from being too serious. I loved watching their friendship progress. I would recommend this book for those looking for clean romance or fans of  Julianne Donaldson or Sara Eden.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Blood Water Paint

Blood Water Paint
by Joy McCullough
Dutton Books, 2018. 298 pages. Young Adult

After her mother's death, Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint. She chose paint and became one of Rome's most talented painters-- while her father took all the credit. Five years later, in the aftermath of a rape, Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost. Through the ensuing trial and torture, she is buoyed by memories of her mother's stories of strong women of the Bible.

Artemisia Gentileschi has long been one of my favorite artists. I remember the first time I heard her story in a high school drawing class - the smell of my pencil shavings, the feel of the paper, the sound of my teacher's voice, filled with passion and respect for the great woman and artist. Learning of the struggles she faced living in a time with less opportunities and rights afforded to women, and how she overcome and thrived by sheer force of will inspired me so much. I had high hopes for this book, and my every expectation was met. The writing is so evocative and engaging. Written in verse, it read like memories; as Artemisia is reflecting on the memory of her mother's stories, so too did I, as a reader, feel that I was reflecting on memories of Artemisia telling me her story. Or perhaps that Artemisia's voice was reaching through time to me, or a bit of both sensations. Needless to say, I was deeply moved.


Batch Cocktails: Make-ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion

Batch Cocktails: Make-ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion
by Maggie Hoffman
Ten Speed Press, 2019. 160 pages. Nonfiction

A hip, accessible guide to batch cocktail-making for entertaining, with 65 recipes that can be made hours--or weeks!--ahead of time so that hosts and hostesses have one less thing to worry about as the doorbell rings. These are delicious and creative cocktails that you don't have to stir or shake to order; rather, they are designed to stay fresh when made ahead and served out of a pitcher. Recipes such as Tongue in Cheek, Friendly Fires, Birds & Bees Punch, and even alcohol-free options are organized by flavor profile--herbal, boozy, bitter, fruity and tart, and so on--to make choosing and whipping up a perfect pitcher of cocktails a total breeze.

Before anything else, flip through this gorgeously photographed book and feast your eyes! I honestly would buy this as a coffee table book because looking at it is so satisfying! But it's not just all style and no substance; this book offers a treasure trove of tasty batch drinks to tempt even the pickiest of taste buds. Don't drink alcohol? No problem! There's a section featuring alcohol-free options that are equally creative as all the other offerings (many of which can easily be made "virgin" as well).  If you're looking for culinary inspiration, look no further! Not only are the recipes drool-worthy, you'll learn a lot about flavor pairings and other skills that'll awaken your inner mixologist.


Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee
by Jeff Zentner
Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019. 400 Pages.Young Adult Fiction

Delia and Josie are high school seniors with a unique hobby. They host a Midnight movie program on their local TV station, where they show low budget, little know, old school horror flicks as their vampire-y alter egos, Rayne and Delilah. While brainstorming ways to take their show from hobby to career, they hear about a horror convention nearby where a famous veteran horror hosting icon will be available for a meet and greet. They plot to charm him with their show so he can give them the boost they need to make them stars. Each of the girls has ulterior motives for wanting their show to make it big, though, and a lot more is riding on this convention than either of them realize.

I checked out this book because I loved author Jeff Zentner’s book, The Serpent King. Zentner has a knack for creating instantly likable characters who behave like actual people in seemingly plausible life situations- which isn’t always what you get from Young Adult books. Delia and Josie’s friendship is reminiscent of real life high school friendships, chalk full of insecurity, self-discovery, family struggles, and lots of love and support for each other. The descriptions in this book are so cinematic; you’ll feel like you're watching Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee broadcast as you turn each page.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Book of Lost Recipes

The Book of Lost Recipes
by Jaya Saxena
Page Street, 2016. 240 pages. Nonfiction

Take a culinary journey to the past with this American restaurant history/cookbook highlighting signature dishes served in days gone by. Along with time-tested recipes, you'll learn about the restaurants and passionate food lovers who cooked up these memorable meals.

If you like food and history, look no further. Still very much a cookbook, recipes are grouped by the restaurant where they were served. Each section starts with a short, 1-2 page spotlight-style summary of the restaurants' history. You'll learn about the New York Exchange for Women's Work, where Civil War widows could find work to support their families, the BBQ joint that became a popular Hollywood after-party spot, and a lot of other really interesting eateries!


Monday, June 3, 2019

Storm Cursed

Storm Cursed
by Patricia Briggs
Ace, 2019. 358 pgs. Fantasy.

This is the 11th book of the Mercy Thompson series, which begins with Moon Called.

When Mercy stood on a bridge and took responsibility for the safety of everyone living inside their territory, it opened up all sorts of new opportunities for trouble to come knocking. The United State Government wants to treat with the fae, and they decide the Columbia Basin pack’s territory is the perfect neutral ground to do so. However, someone doesn’t want these meetings taking place, and that someone can use black magic to create zombies.

 First off, I don’t do zombies but I still absolutely loved this book. It does deal with black magic, so for that reason it’s a bit darker than the others, but the writing here is just as fabulous as the rest of the series. I was excited to learn more about Sherwood Post and Wulfe, and was glad to see some other characters I felt hadn’t been around for a while like Zee and Stefan. I highly recommend this series to anyone willing to read urban fantasy.


The War That Saved My Life

The War That Saved My Life
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial Books, 2015. 316 pages. Juvenile Fiction

Just before the onset of World War 2, ten-year-old Ada has never left her London apartment because her mother is humiliated by Ada's twisted foot.  When her younger brother Jaime prepares to be shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada defiantly sneaks out to join him on the train.  Ada and Jaime experience a new world in the countryside, not just in the outdoor splendor but in the home of Susan Smith, who reluctantly takes them in.  Susan treats them differently from their mother - she doesn't hit them or keep food from them if they've been bad.  Slowly, they come to trust Susan and Ada experiences a life far more fulfilling than her mother ever planned for her.

This story is told from Ada's perspective, who is a bit of an unreliable narrator.  Ada doesn't fully understand that her mother's treatment of her has been abusive, or that her life could be much better.  Seeing Ada grow into a more capable, stronger girl is a satisfying transformation, and I appreciated that the wartime setting was downplayed so we could focus on the characters.  I listened to the audiobook, narrated by my favorite reader, Jayne Entwistle, and it did not disappoint.  This book is available as a book club set here at the Provo City Library.


Siren's Song

Siren’s Song 
by May Weber
Thomas Nelson, 2016. 371 pgs. Young Adult Fiction.

 In this thrilling conclusion to the Storm Siren trilogy, Nym must use every ounce of strength she possesses to stop Draewulf and save the Hidden Lands. After learning the full scope of his plan, Nym races across the Hidden Lands to warn the other kingdoms and scrambles to gather an army for battle. The Elemental that shouldn’t exist is the final piece that will either save the world or destroy it.

 I think this was the best book of the three; I enjoyed how everything tied together in the end. I think that while Nym has some character traits that I personally find frustrating, she really shows a lot of personal growth over the course of the series, which is something I always count as a good characteristic in a book. Plus the whole book is intense from cover to cover; I could hardly put it down! This series is surely worth finishing.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

I Owe You One

I Owe You One
By Sophie Kinsella
Dial Press, 2019. 488 pages. Fiction

Fixie Farr spends most of her time working in her family's housewares store to carry on the legacy of her late father and help her mother with the workload.  When a stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, she saves it from certain disaster.  To thank her, he scribbles a quick "IOU" on a coffee sleeve, though Fixie would never think of taking him up on it.  But when an old flame walks back into Fixie's life and needs a favor, she can't help but think of the kind stranger and wonder if he might be able to help her out after all.

Sophie Kinsella is known for her popular chick lit, and while this book doesn't quite outstrip some of her better stories, it's an enjoyable addition to her work.  Fixie is caught between trying to do good by her family and actually doing things in her own best interest, and her family issues add some interesting complexity to the plot and her character development.  There is a romance here, but it almost takes a back seat to pressing issues in Fixie's life and her journey toward becoming a stronger person.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Draw and Be Happy

Draw and Be Happy: Art Exercises to Bring You Joy
by Tim A Shaw
Chronicle Books, 2018. 160 pages. Nonfiction

Based on techniques used in art therapy, this boldly and colorfully illustrated book is full of drawing prompts, perfect for non-artists, beginners, and experienced artists alike. Activities range from meditative, confidence-boosting, stress-relieving, and more, guiding readers to express themselves in creative and fulfilling ways.

I thought I had a good idea of what this book would be like, but it surprised me! The drawing prompts are strictly text, and the artwork serves less as instruction or as examples of what to draw; more often than not it serves just as illustration to the ideas being explored in each activity. The bright colors are very uplifting, and the drawing activities act more as guided meditation than how-to-draw, which is perfect for a book like this! The goal here is not to teach you technique, it is to help you explore and express yourself creatively, and most of all to just have fun doing it!


The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy
First Second, 2018. 256 pages. Graphic Novel

The hit McElroy brothers' podcast comes to literary-life in this graphic novel adaptation. Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior embark on adventure for gold and glory...if they can make it out alive. With their trusty dungeon master to help them along ("trusty" and "help" being loose terms here), there's something for everyone: humor, action, and more.

Whether you're a fan of the McElroy brothers, a fan of D&D, or just love hilarious fantasy action, this book is for you. As a D&D campaign literary adaptation, a tricky feat, the execution is just sublime. Add that with the McElroy brand of hilarious antics, and you've got a winner! I laughed, I cried laughing, and laughed some more.


The Poet X

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
HarperTeen, 2018. 357 pages. Young Adult

Despite feeling unheard and dismissed, Xiomara has plenty to say, and lets all her fierceness flow onto the pages of her notebook. Who would want to listen to her anyways? Her mother just wants her to be pious, chaste, and demure. Her father won't, or can't, connect with the family. Men reduce her to her curves. But Xiomara's teacher can tell that she is holding back, and encourages Xiomara to join the slam poetry club, and X finds herself torn. After all the years of keeping quiet, can she finally let her words fly free?

I. Am. In. Love. Of all the new releases last year, this book is still easily my favorite of 2018. It's all the more impressive that this is Acevedo's first book. I'm not even sure what else to tell you, really. The writing is flawless. The tone, emotions, tension, so wonderfully executed. I related to Xiomara, our Poet X, so much; her voice was so clear and strong and her questions about life, family, belief, and societal expectations resonated with me. Check out the audio version as well; it is performed by the author, a slam poet herself!


Sea Prayer

Sea Prayer
by Khaled Hosseini
Riverhead Books, 2018. 48 pages. Fiction

In this short but incredibly moving book, a father addresses his sleeping son as if writing a letter as they wait to embark on the treacherous voyage across the sea at dawn. The father speaks fondly of his youth, and the pain he feels knowing his son's few memories of Syria are only those of war and loss. Reminiscing turns to prayer of hope for a place of peace and safety, a prayer that they will live to find it.

This book proves the adage that great things come in small packages. In less than fifty pages, the plight of this unnamed refugee father and his child, just two among millions of others like them are powerfully brought to life with honest, moving prose. I don't know how exactly to describe how a story so small and simple filled me with such great empathy. This is a must-read.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Soul of an Octopus: A Joyful Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness

The Soul of an Octopus: A Joyful Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness
by Sy Montgomery
Atria Books, 2015. 261 pages. Young Adult Nonfiction.

Montgomery dedicated several years of her life befriending octopuses. Her regular encounters with these animals reveals more than their physical characteristics, but their vibrant personalities as well. Octopuses can solve problems and test boundaries. They are escape artists and caregivers. Montgomery grants readers a glimpse of her relationship with several of these unique animals. Her book joyfully represents what it means to see the soul of an octopus.

I've always been scared of large sea creatures, but after reading this book I am scared of small ones too. It was fascinating to learn how octopuses interacted and how smart they are. They are adorable but dangerous. I would not want to get between an octopus and it's lunch. I loved that the octopuses remembered the different caretakers even when they went several months without interaction. This book had a similar tone to that of Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and would be a good choice for those interested in a science-memoir mash-up.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Radioactive: How Irene Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World

Radioactive!: How Irene Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World
By Winifred Conkling
Algonquin Young Readers. 2016. 227 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction

Irene Curie was the daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie. Irene and her husband worked together to discover artificial radioactivity. Their discovery led to many advances in science. They both shared a Nobel Prize for their work. When she was nominated to the French Academy of Sciences she was denied admission and they voted to disqualify all women from membership. That did not stop her from continuing her research. Four years later, her breakthrough led physicist Lise Meitner to unlock the secret of nuclear fission. Meitner's unique discoveries were critical to the revolution of science. They led to the discovery of nuclear energy and the race to build the atom bomb. She was never recognized by the Nobel committee. Instead they gave the recognition to her male colleague.

This was a fascinating book about two women who did not get the recognition they deserved for the discoveries they made. I have to admit that I usually don't enjoy nonfiction science writing, but this book kept my attention the whole time and I learned so much. I thought it was interesting to read how they did not understand how dangerous radioactivity was. They were overexposed to it and had many different illnesses throughout their lives. To this day, their notes can only be handled by someone wearing a special radioactive suit. This book is written for a young adult audience so there are lots of pictures and sidebars to help explain scientific concepts and the culture of the time. I was amazed to see these two women have so much passion for their work. They did not let the frustrations of working in a male-dominated field or the lack of recognition stop them from sharing their discoveries with the world.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Takane & Hana Vol. 1

Takane & Hana Vol. 1 
By Yuki Shiwasu 
VIZ Media LLC, 2018, 200 pgs, Young Adult Graphic Novel

When Hana’s older sister refuses to attend an arranged marriage meeting, Hana is forced to go posing as her older sister in order for her father to keep his job and reputation. The meeting is brief and utterly disastrous, yet… successful? Takane, 10 years Hana’s senior, continues to see Hana who is still posing as her older sister. But what will happen when he finds out the truth about Hana’s age and identity? 

I loved this book for so many reasons. Each character has a distinct personality and style. The relationships are dynamic and entertaining, especially the one between Takane and Hana. While Hana is spunky and grounded, Takane is demanding, stubborn, and awkward. Their behavior towards each other is often appalling, their conversation snarky, but their overall dynamic sweet and charming. The art is engaging, expressive, and fluid. The content is clean. I loved the good-naturedness and innocence of this comic. This is far from your typical romance story which is one of the reasons I think it works so well.

If you aren’t used to reading backwards, I feel that this is a good comic to start with. There is a mini instruction guide on the very last page of the book that shows with arrows and numbers in which order the comic panels should be read. I also recommend this comic for starters because even if a couple of the panels are read out of order, it won’t affect the flow or feel of the story (I speak from experience). I also feel that the story sucked me in so quickly that I was willing to take the time to learn how to read this comic because I wanted to know what happened.


The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: a magical story

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story
By Marie Kondo, Illustrated by Yuko Uramoto 
Ten Speed Press, 2017. 192 pgs. Graphic Novel 

Meet Chiaki: a young, single professional living in a tiny messy apartment. When she gets a glimpse into her attractive neighbor's tidy apartment one night, she is determined to have an apartment as clean as his. After reading some glowing reviews, Chiaki hires Marie Kondo to help her on her life-changing journey of tidying up her small and unlivable apartment. With principles illustrated directly from Marie Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, and with Marie Kondo herself as the guide, Chiaki ventures through all of her belongings to determine which of her belongings bring her joy to ultimately get her to a living space that brings her joy.  

Let me first say, I read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. When I saw this title sitting on the shelf, I was a bit skeptical of the comic format but curious enough to pick it up. I loved it. Although Kondo had shared personal snippets of story here and there in her previous book, it was still a little difficult for me to relate to those people or feel like the Konmari method was something that I myself could undertake. However, I felt fully invested with Chiaki. I was cheering her on and rejoicing in her successes the whole book through.



By Min Jin Lee
Grand Central Publishing, 2017. 496 pgs. Fiction

Sunja's life is forever altered after a fling with a charming man near the markets of her home in the small fishing village of Yeongdo, Korea. Pregnant and with few options, Sunja is given an opportunity for a hopeful future--with the caveat that she must move to Japan, long considered Korea's oppressor. This multigenerational story begins with Sunja's emigration in the 1930s and extends up to the late 1980s through the plights of her sons, her grandchildren, and their friends and lovers, with all the ethnicity, class, and gender-related tensions those relationships abide.

If, like me, you are captivated by stories that take place in Asia or have Asian protagonists (The Good Earth, anything by Lisa See or Haruki Murakami), this National Book Award finalist is a must-read. The novel has some of the trappings of an epic tale, with a mysteriously compelling hero(ine), a journey from home to a foreign land, and a narrator that feels at times distant, simply there to relate the story and only rarely comment on the progress. This last quality, too, makes the novel feel incredibly modern, allowing the reader to interpret tragedy or happy ending out of the story, which, depending on the reader, could be frustrating or freeing. My favorite parts of the book were the tangents into the quiet lives of minor characters--alighting briefly on their histories, their vulnerabilities, their memories of their parents, sisters, brothers. When it was finally time to leave Sunja, Mozasu, Solomon, and Hana at the end of the 496 pages, I wasn't ready.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Don't Date Rosa Santos

Don’t Date Rosa Santos
by Nina Moreno
Disney-Hyperion, 2019. 336 pgs. Young Adult.

Rosa Santos has always known about her family’s curse. Her grandfather died as he and her grandmother fled Cuba. Her father died shortly after her mother found out she was pregnant with Rosa. Both men were taken by the sea. When Alex Aquino comes back to town, Rosa knows she should stay away from him (especially because he owns a boat). Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

This book hit especially close to home for me as Rosa’s abuela, Mimi, reminded me a lot of my own grandmother. I thought the author did a great job of portraying what it’s like to live in a bilingual household. Rosa was a really enjoyable main character because she had a lot of confidence while still being vulnerable at times. I liked the dynamic between Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother and felt that the emotions throughout the book were really authentic. I would recommend this book as a great summer read for anyone who wants a small taste of Cuban Florida.


Monday, May 13, 2019

The Art of the Fold

The Art of the Fold
by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol
Laurence King Publishing, 2018. 192 pgs. Nonfiction

This book is all about how folding paper can create unique and beautiful books. There are five main structural types with 36 total projects. These are structures that Kyle created herself, and includes images of some of her work throughout. Each project has an image, description, dimensions, techniques, tools, and individual components needed, along with detailed illustrations of each step.

It might be because I am a bookbinder, but I absolutely love this book. There are a variety of difficulties of projects, making it useful for new and experienced binders. The instructions are organized and complete with illustrations that are clear and detailed. There is a breadth of projects that makes this book useful for elementary and secondary teachers, bookbinders, conservators, artists, and others. This book would be great for anyone who is looking to learn more about bookbinding or try out a new art style with minimum supplies needed.


Friday, May 10, 2019

The Water Cure

The Water Cure
by Sophie Mackintosh
Doubleday, 2018. 269 pages, Fiction

On an island isolated from the rest of the world, a father, mother and 3 girls have created an existence bathed in ritual to free themselves from the contamination and toxins of the world beyond. When their father doesn’t return from a trip to the mainland, and 2 men and a boy wash up on their shores, the girls are faced with both dangers and desires that they’ve never encountered before. Will the men spread their toxicity to the girls, or will their extreme measures, tortuous therapies, and experimental cures allow them to maintain their untainted existence?

A fascinating and intricate take on toxic masculinity, sisterhood, and perceived “wellness”, coupled with an artfully laid sense of dread and uncertainty, this book paints parallels to our modern world and exaggerates its dangers in thought provoking ways. This book was long-listed for the Man Booker prize last year and has been compared to A Handmaid’s Tale and other feminist dystopian fiction, with good reason, as the dark, ominous tone penetrates and shocks in the same way. A page turner, but not for the faint of heart, I’d recommend this book to those who like their literature to hold a mirror up to our society and question why we behave a certain way or value the things we do.