Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Bear

The Bear

by Andrew Krivak 2020, Bellvue Literary Press. 221 pages. Science Fiction 

In an Edenic future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain. They possess a few remnants of civilization: some books, a pane of glass, a set of flint and steel, a comb. The father teaches the girl how to fish and hunt, the secrets of the seasons and the stars. He is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last two left. But when the girl suddenly finds herself alone in an unknown landscape, it is a bear that will lead her back home through a vast wilderness, which offers the greatest lessons of all, if she can only learn to listen. A cautionary tale of human fragility, of love and loss, The Bear is a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature's dominion. 


If you like The Bear, you might also like: 

by Michael Crummey. Doubleday, 2019. 290 pages. General Fiction
 
A brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland's northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean, by a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family's boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to keep them. 


by Michael Christie, Hogarth, 2019. 504 pages. General Fiction

It's 2038 and Jake Greenwood is a storyteller and a liar, an overqualified tour guide babysitting ultra-rich vacationers in one of the world's last remaining forests. It's 2008 and Liam Greenwood is a carpenter, fallen from a ladder and sprawled on his broken back, calling out from the concrete floor of an empty mansion. It's 1974 and Willow Greenwood is out of jail, free after being locked up for one of her endless series of environmental protests: attempts at atonement for the sins of her father's once vast and violent timber empire. It's 1934 and Everett Greenwood is alone, as usual, in his maple syrup camp squat when he hears the cries of an abandoned infant and gets tangled up in the web of a crime that will cling to his family for decades. And throughout, there are trees: thrumming a steady, silent pulse beneath Christie's effortless sentences and working as a guiding metaphor for withering, weathering, and survival. A shining, intricate clockwork of a novel, Greenwood is a rain-soaked and sun-dappled story of the bonds and breaking points of money and love, wood and blood--and the hopeful, impossible task of growing toward the light.

NS

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Always Human

Always Human 
by Ari North Yellow Jacket, 2020. 150 pages. Young Adult Graphic Novel 

In the near-future, people use technology to give the illusion of all kinds of body modifications-but some people have "Egan's Syndrome," a highly sensitive immune system that rejects these "mods" and are unable to use them. Those who are affected maintain a "natural" appearance, reliant on cosmetics and hair dye at most to help them play with their looks. Sunati is attracted to Austen the first time she sees her and is drawn to what she assumes is Austen's bravery and confidence to live life unmodded. When Sunati learns the truth, she's still attracted to Austen and asks her on a date. Gradually, their relationship unfolds as they deal with friends, family, and the emotional conflicts that come with every romance. Together, they will learn and grow in a story that reminds us no matter how technology evolves, we will remain . . . always human. 

If you like Always Human, you might also like: 

My Riot 
by Rick Spears Oni Press, 2020. 179 pages. Young Adult Graphic Novel
 
Set in the early '90s, My Riot is about a trio of teen girls who team up to form a rock band and shake off society's expectations of what it means to be a young woman coming of age in the modern world. Both 

Austen and Val learn to live their lives by their own values and ideas. Val discovers that there is a world outside of ballet and her oppressively conservative family. Austen lives without mods and learns that there is value for and in her in a mod-ern world. 


Carry On 
by Rainbow Rowell St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015. 522 pages. Young Adult Fiction 

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen. He just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him -- not his girlfriend, not his best friend, not his mentor, and not his roommate. Plus, there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. 




 Always Human is a story about two people finding one another, almost by accident, and really learning to care for one another. There is a similar storyline in Carry On. Simon and Baz are drawn to one another because they are so different, and that difference end up being the basis for their friendship and their relationship. Both are very sweet LGBTQIA+ stories.

Cosmic Queries

Cosmic Queries: StarTalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going
By Neil deGrasse Tyson
National Geographic, 2021. 309 pages. Science

Tyson and coauthor James Trefil, a renowned physicist and science popularizer, take on the big questions that humanity has been posing for millennia—How did life begin? What is our place in the universe? Are we alone?—and provide answers based on the most current data, observations, and theories. Populated with paradigm-shifting discoveries that help explain the building blocks of astrophysics, this relatable and entertaining book will engage and inspire listeners of all ages.


If you like Cosmic Queries, you might also like:

Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality
by Frank Wilczek
Penguin Press, 2021. 254 pages. Science

Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek's Fundamentals is built around a simple but profound idea: the models of the world we construct as children are practical and adequate for everyday life, but they do not bring in the surprising and mind-expanding revelations of modern science. To do that, we must look at the world anew, combining clear thinking with an openness to wonder. This "born again" world is in many ways larger, fuller, and much stranger than it appears.


by Emily Levesque
Sourcebooks, 2020. 313 pages. Science

Award-winning astronomer Emily Levesque shares the stories of modern-day stargazers, the people willing to adventure across high mountaintops and to some of the most remote corners of the planet, all in the name of science. From the lonely quiet of midnight stargazing to tall tales of wild bears loose in the observatory, The Last Stargazers is a love letter to astronomy and an affirmation of the crucial role that humans can and must play in the future of scientific discovery.

AS


Monday, May 3, 2021

Elatsoe

Elatsoe
by Darcie Little Badger
Levine Querido, 2020. 360 pages. YA Fantasy/Mystery

In this award-winning contemporary fantasy/mystery, 17-year-old Elatsoe (Ellie) comes from a long line of Lipan Apache women who have a special affinity with the dead. Mostly, Ellie has used this power to train her ghost dog, Kirby, to play fetch and to warn her when he senses danger. When Ellie’s cousin, Trevor, dies suddenly in highly suspicious circumstances, he comes to Ellie in a dream and demands that she find his murderer and help protect his family. With the help of her best friend Jay, Ellie slowly uncovers a dark magical secret that could put the lives of the people she loves at risk.

If you like Elatsoe, you might also like:

by Holly Jackson
Delacorte Press, 2020, 390 pages, YA Mystery

Five years after a horrible murder happened in her hometown, Pip decides to reexamine the case as part of her senior project. The more Pip looks into the case, the more obvious it becomes that the supposed murderer is innocent, and many others in town appear to be more likely suspects. The audiobook for this book is especially worth listening to.

Although Elatsoe weaves supernatural elements into its mystery, both books follow clever teenagers as they solve a mystery with ever-increasing stakes.

by Gavriel Savit
Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, 360 pages, YA Fantasy

When the Angel of Death passes through the Eastern European town of Tupik, teens Yehuda Leib and Bluma accidentally follow him into the Far Country, the Jewish Land of the Dead. Yehuda Leib and Bluma must cross the Far Country, make pacts with ancient demons, and declare war on Death himself in hopes of getting out of the Far Country alive. The audiobook for this book is also a great listen.

Yehuda Leib, Bluma, and Ellie all share a sort of affinity with the dead that lies at the center of both of their stories. Both stories also incorporate elements of folklore and magical traditions of diverse cultures.

MB

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Georgana's Secret

Georgana’s Secret
by Arlem Hawks
Shadow Mountain, 2021. 316 pages. Romance 

As a young girl, Georgana Woodall dreamed of beautiful dresses, fancy balls, and falling in love, but when her mother dies, she cannot face a future under the guardianship of her abusive grandmother and instead chooses to join her father on his ship disguised as his cabin boy, "George.” Lieutenant Dominic Peyton is new to the crew and strives to be an exemplary officer and leader. He decides to take the shy captain’s cabin boy under his wing only to start discovering that George is really a woman. Not wanting to put her in danger from the rest of the crew he keeps her secret as well as his growing affection for her. But life in the Navy is not easy. As both of them struggle with their feelings for one another they also have to survive battles with the enemy and rising tension among the crew. 

If you like Georgana’s Secret, you might also like: 

by Jennifer Moore
(2015) 

With the arrival of Captain Sir William Drake, widow and heiress Amelia Beckett's plans quickly go awry for Drake is out to prove that Amelia's marriage to his brother was a fraud. Left with no choice, Amelia joins the captain on his return voyage from Jamaica to England, and the two quickly find that ship life does not allow for evasion. Amelia and William are ceaselessly thrown together, and amidst fierce storms and ocean battles, what began as antipathy seems to be evolving quite unexpectedly. 


by Donna Hatch 
(2010) 

Although she longs for adventure Elise strives to be a perfect English Lady for the sake of her son. She doesn’t plan on falling in love with the impulsive and scandalous Jared Amesbury. A gentleman by day, a pirate by night, Jared must complete one last assignment for the Secret Service before he can be truly free. Elise gives him hope that he, too, can find love and belonging. His hopes are crushed when his best laid plans go awry and Elise is dragged into his world of violence and deceit. She may not survive the revelation of Jared's past...or still love him when the truth is revealed. 


by Julie Wright
(2021) 

Taking a one-way trip aboard the Fishing Fleet to India after a third failed London season, outcast Caroline bonds with unconventional ship Captain Thomas Scott during the voyage. Captain Scott is captivated by her fiery spirit and becomes an unlikely ally. An undeniable attraction blossoms but a relationship between them is impossible unless Caroline decides to be brave enough to love the sea captain rather than marry a man she has never met before.




ME

Friday, April 30, 2021

Kingdom of Souls

Kingdom of Souls 
By Rena Barron
HarperTeen, 2019. 485 pages. Young Adult 

Arrah has always wanted magic of her own. Her family is powerful and revered, but somehow the gift seems to have missed her. After years of longing, she’s determined to take matters into her own hands. Arrah is willing to sacrifice years of her life for limited access to magic. When the Kingdom’s children start to go missing, Arrah will use her new power to investigate and uncover what’s happening to them—but what’s happening is far worse than she could have ever imagined. 

Arrah wants to assume the best in everyone, and thinks if she is able to do just a bit more, everything will turn out fine—even when all signs point to the contrary. It is #relatable on so many levels. While the pacing can feel a little slow at times, this is an intricately plotted fantasy novel that I would especially recommend to fans of Tomi Adeyemi’s CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE

ACS

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life

The Answer Is...: Reflections on My Life
By Alex Trebek
Simon & Scuster, 2020. 304 pages. Biography

Best known as the host of Jeopardy! for 37 seasons, Trebek made headlines in 2019 when he announced that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.  After an outpouring of well-wishes and support from fans of the show and people across the world, Trebek decided to write a book of personal anecdotes, answers to frequently asked questions, and thoughts on a range of topics. 

Trebek has been a staple in American households for decades and is known as a beloved and respected figure in the entertainment world.  He also dedicated much of his life to philanthropy and activism.  Despite the tragic circumstances that ended his life, this is a heartwarming and inspiring book, recommended for any fans of Jeopardy! or anyone looking to learn more about this extraordinary figure.  The audiobook is narrated partly by Ken Jennings and partly by Trebek himself. 

 BHG

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Children's Blizzard

By  Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte Press, 2021. 351 pgs. Fiction

Many immigrants were tricked into coming to America with hopes of a better life and dreams of owning their own land in Nebraska. Life was hard and unforgiving but most homesteaders found a way to survive. The morning of January 12, 1888 started warmer than normal on the Great Plains so many settlers and children left their heavy winter clothes at home and left the house to work the land and attend school for the first time in days. The Children's Blizzard is the story of the unexpected blizzard that hit just as school was about to let out for the day. Many of the school teachers were young themselves and were faced with impossible choices. No one was prepared for the brutal nature of this storm. Many people died, and the heartbreaking part was that the majority were children trying to get back home. 

The Children's Blizzard is a historical fiction novel based on facts about the time period and the storm itself. It is heartbreaking and bleak. The four main characters all make different decisions during the storm that alter the trajectory of their lives. I found the details and description of the storm fascinating, but I had a hard time finishing the book because I didn't feel connected to any of the characters. Recommended for people who are looking for a historical fiction novel that explores a unique event in our Country's history.

AL


My Calamity Jane


By Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton 
HarperTeen, 2020. 520 pgs. Young Adult Historical Fiction 

The United States is a wild place in 1876, full of gunslingers, outlaws, horses, and garou -- aka werewolves. Wild Bill’s Traveling Show is full of garou hunters, including Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley and Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler. After a hunt goes wrong, Jane finds a suspicious bite on her arm, and she heads to Deadwood, where there’s talk of a cure. But, there is a deeper scheme happening and not everyone will survive Deadwood. 

On the surface, this is a funny, adventurous, supernatural romance, but there is so much more depth to this book. The authors explore themes of acceptance, family, prejudice, colonialism, and racism in a nonconfrontational manner that encourages the reader to look inward. The relationship between Annie and Frank is funny and light-hearted and they both grow during the book. This is a fun read with diverse characters and a fun spin on the American West, and is great for anyone who enjoys alternative histories, western stories, or supernatural romance. 

TT

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration


The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration 

By Wayde Compton 

Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019. 116 pages. Young Adult Comics. 

The Blue Road is a graphic novel that tells the story of Lacuna, a girl living alone in a swamp made of ink who does not remember where she came from or how she got there. One day she meets Polaris, the will-o'-the-wisp guardian of the swamp who tells her she must leave his realm or die. She decides to try her luck in the world and sets off on her journey to the North Kingdom. Following the blue road, Lacuna overcomes many trials before reaching her journey’s end. However, once she gets to the North Kingdom Lacuna finds out that her quest to belong somewhere is only beginning. She realizes that “Leaving, arriving, and returning all mean starting all over again”. 

This modern-day take on a fable is touching, with gorgeous artwork and poetry. It depicts made-up characters in a fantastical world but tells a story that has significance in our world. I like that it uses fantastical elements (world-building, surrealism, epic voyages, imaginary creatures, etc.) to convey the message that our laws, practices, and regulations can seem outlandish or whimsical to new people. Any aspect of the immigration experience can be applied to what Lacuna goes through, whether that is experiencing xenophobia, transportation issues, language barriers, lack of employment opportunities, racism, housing issues, or cultural differences. This book shares in an easily digestible format just a little bit of what an immigrant goes through and is thought-provoking. 

sr

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Later

Later 
by Stephen King 
Hard Case Crime, 2021. 264 pages. 

Jamie Conklin is no ordinary child. He can see dead people. But not like that kid in that movie. The dead only stick around for a few days before they move on. And the dead always have to tell the truth. Always. Jamie’s secret puts him in jeopardy when an NYC detective discovers his unique ability and uses him to help hunt down a dangerous serial killer. 

Stephen King delivers once again on style. This man has proven time and again that he can write, and the prose holds its own with the great King classics of old. The story takes one turn after another and keeps the reader on their toes. This work is a definitely more bite-sized compared to King’s more lengthy novels, making this a quick and fun read for fans of both hard-boiled fiction and paranormal horror. 

ALL

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Searcher

The Searcher
by Tana French
Viking, 2020, 451 pages, Mystery

After 25 years working for the Chicago P.D., Cal Hooper thinks renovating a house settled deep in the Irish countryside and socializing at the small local pub is the ideal way to spend his retirement. But when 12-year-old Trey Reddy shows up at Cal’s door, demanding that Cal investigate his brother’s disappearance, Cal faces an interesting choice: take his new hometown at face value and turn a blind eye when problems arise, or do what he was trained to do and dig into things that are likely best left alone. 

This book takes a bit to really get going, but French is great a building the atmosphere until Cal’s investigation comes to a head. Her descriptions of Ireland’s bleak, wind-swept, craggy hills and the detailed backstories she gives to each of the locals really help you feel like you’re there. I also appreciated a sub-plot that mirrored the main plot perfectly, as Cal teaches Trey how to determine where your moral compass lies, while making the same decisions himself with each stage of his investigation.

Readers who enjoy atmospheric mysteries like this one might also enjoy the work of Jane Harper, who writes atmospheric mysteries set in Australia.

MB

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process

 


Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process 
by Sheryl Ziegler 
Dey St. 2018. 311 pages. Nonfiction 

A practical handbook for the modern mother who feels constantly overwhelmed, tired, and plain burned out. This is filled with funny and relatable real-life stories, explains what burnout looks like and how mothers get there, and of course has lots of advice for avoiding the pitfalls that lead to burnout such as isolation, social media, perfection, and a constant state of busy. For working moms and stay at home moms alike, and includes a chapter on how mom’s burnout can lead to her kids burning out too. 

The writing style is conversational, and I liked how the anecdotes provided both relatability, humor, and real-life examples of the chapter’s principle. At the end of each chapter there’s a “Mommy Prescription Plan” that sums up the suggested actions to address that chapter’s aspect of burnout. I listened to the audiobook version on Libby and have no complaints with the narration. Great read for moms that feel constantly tired, overwhelmed, or “over” being a mother; this book is for you. 

ER

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Braiding Sweetgrass

Braiding Sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Tantor Media Inc. 2016.

As a botanist and professor of plant ecology, Robin Wall Kimmerer has spent a career learning how to ask questions of nature using the tools of science. As a Potawatomi woman, she learned from elders, family, and history that the Potawatomi, as well as a majority of other cultures indigenous to this land, consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowing together to reveal what it means to see humans as "the younger brothers of creation." As she explores these themes, she circles toward a central argument: The awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the world. Once we begin to listen for the languages of other beings, we can begin to understand the innumerable life-giving gifts the world provides us and learn to offer our thanks, our care, and our own gifts in return.

Robin Wall Kimmerer provides us with a refreshing and in-depth perspective on our relationship with the earth. I love that she asks us as humans to become interwoven in our relationship with the earth (hence, braiding sweetgrass) rather than having a give and take relationship. Kimmerer has quite the talent for turning hard science into beautiful art. Her words are like poetry and are a pleasure to read. The knowledge she shares about indigenous culture and practices is so beneficial to the wellbeing of the earth and the human race. That having been said, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in ecology, botany, nature, science, anthropology, and in exploring the relationship between humans and the earth. I would also highly recommend listening to the audiobook, which is available through the Libby app.

NS 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Fangs


Fangs 
by Sarah Andersen 
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2020. 100 pages. Graphic Novel 

Elsie the vampire is three hundred years old, but in all that time she has never met her match. That is until she meets Jimmy one night in a bar. Jimmy is a charming werewolf with a wry sense of humor and a fondness for running wild during the full moon. Together, Elsie and Jimmy enjoy a genuine fondness for each other’s unusual habits, macabre lifestyles, and monstrous appetites. 

 This was my first time really diving into one of Sarah Andersen’s works and I really enjoyed it. It was a quick read but told a fun and cute story about a couple as they navigate their relationship and become accustomed to one another’s differences. It shows the awkwardness, humor, and love that all relationships go through with a paranormal twist. If you have enjoyed Sarah Andersen's Adulthood is a Myth or if you are just looking for a good Saturday morning graphic, then be sure to check out this book. 

 ME

Friday, April 2, 2021

Amelia Unabridged

 


Amelia Unabridged

by Ashley Schumacher

Wednesday Books, 2021. 293 pages. Young Adult Fiction

Amelia and Jenna are brought together by a book store and a book. They were meant to be best friends forever. They were going to go to college together and take all the same generals. They were going to be roommates. Jenna had it all planned out, and Amelia needed to be tethered to someone, so she gladly followed the plan.

The summer after graduation, Jenna and Amelia, super fans of N.E. Endsley's amazing Orman Chronicles, find themselves waiting for the panel that will announce the last book in the series, made by N.E. Endsley himself. Amelia heads for the restroom and while she is gone, Jenna meets the terrified Endsley, right outside of the authors' green room. He is having a panic attack. When Amelia returns, she hears the announcement that the Orman panel is canceled. Jenna is strangely quiet about it all. Later she tells Amelia that she tried to help Endsley by telling him to do what was best for him, which led to the panel cancelation. Amelia is devastated and angry. She hold’s Jenna accountable for all her dashed hopes and dreams about meeting Endsley. She is slow to forgive Jenna, so when Jenna is killed in a car accident a week later, Amelia is devastated again.

Amelia becomes obsessed with searching for signs from Jenna. When the 101st out of 100 copies of the leather bound Orman Chronicles shows up for her at her book store with no information about the sender, Amelia knows she needs to find out who sent it. She thinks it’s from Jenna, but she has to be sure. So, she heads to Michigan, to another bookstore that might know where the book came from. Little does she know that this bookstore will bring her together with none other than N.E. Endsley!

This book starts out devastatingly sad and ends impossibly. It's beautiful. With writerly prose that evokes vivid images like sky whales that surface whenever Amelia is feeling something deeply, this book uses the language of anxiety and trauma. It resonates deeply with those who have been through similar tragedies. But the book is also just so fun and lovely. If you can get to Michigan with Amelia, you have a big chance of loving this book. For fans of Sara Zarr and Jandy Nelson.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Hilarious World of Depression

The Hilarious World of Depression
By John Moe
St. Martin's Press, 2020. 285 pages. Nonfiction

John Moe does vital work in combatting the discrimination and difficulty that people with mental illnesses have to struggle against just to function. With a realistic and stark honesty about his personal experiences, Moe builds a compelling narrative for readers (or listeners) to get an insider's look at the world of living with depression inside your own head.

The audio book is narrated by the author, who has years of public radio shows and a podcast (of the same name) behind him to make the audio engaging and fun to listen to. By including actual interview segments from the individuals he quotes throughout the book, Moe's experiences are further supported and joined by a chorus of celebrity and professionals that struggle with depression and illness every day. Topics discussed throughout the book include living with symptoms while undiagnosed, the weight of thinking there's something fundamentally wrong, thoughts of suicidal ideation, and living in the wake of a family member's suicide.

The Hilarious World of Depression provides a necessary window into how it is impossible to just "bounce back" when struggling with depression and pulls apart societal stigmas surrounding medication and therapy. Supported by a tapestry of voices the author encountered in his own interviews for his podcast, listeners will walk away with an understanding, validation, or renewed hope that help is possible.

AS

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Sky Painted Gold

A Sky Painted Gold
By Laura Wood
Random House Children’s Books, 2020. 376 pages. Young Adult 

Lou has dreamed of a fancy, high society life, but her family farm in a quiet Cornish village doesn’t exactly exude glamour. She often sneaks into and reads in the Cardew house, a grand house that has stood empty for years. Then, one day, Caitlin and Robert Cardew, the owners, return for the summer. When Lou hides in a tree one evening, watching one of the Cardew’s fancy parties, Robert Cardew surreptitiously walks over and starts chatting with her. Soon, Lou is swept into the hustle and bustle of high society, all the while feeling both excited, and like an outsider. 

This is a lovely coming-of-age story. Although the story is relatively predictable and the characters fit nicely into their roles, it was fun to get swept away with Lou into the high-life. The setting is immersive and expertly crafted, and the budding romance adds a nice touch. The bitter-sweet nature of growing up, discovering oneself, and becoming independent of our families really tugs at the heartstrings. For those who have enjoyed PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, or THE GREAT GATSBY, or perhaps aren’t quite ready to venture into those classics, A SKY PAINTED GOLD is a great option. 

ACS

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Light for the World to See

Light for the World to See 
by Kwame Alexander 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 96 pages. 

Kwame Alexander is well-known for his slam-dunk poetry in his Newbery Award winning book The Crossover. Light For the World comprises three of his latest poems, “American Bullet Points,” “Take a Knee,” and “The Undefeated.” This book may take you less than an hour to read from start to finish, but these bite-size poems pack a powerful punch. Alexander speaks out on racial injustice and the current struggles of Black lives in society, and he calls this book a “roll of thunder, a call to action. A rally in verse.” 

These poems beg to be read aloud, and I highly suggest listening to recordings of Kwame Alexander himself reading them. These recordings are available free of charge online. If you enjoy this book, you may also enjoy Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb.

ALL

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Juliet Takes a Breath


Juliet Takes a Breath

By Gabby Rivera

Dial Books, 2019. 304 pages. Fiction. 

The night before she leaves for her dream internship, Juliet Palante comes out to her Puerto Rican family as a lesbian. Leaving behind her shocked and disappointed parents, she travels from the Bronx to Portland, Oregon to intern for her favorite feminist author, Harlowe Brisbane. Juliet spends the summer making friends with other women authors of color, exploring her sexuality, learning to communicate with her mom, and getting over her first break-up. She finds that Harlowe’s brand of feminism isn’t as inclusive as she thought and that sometimes your heroes will fail you. Juliet discovers more about who she is as a “closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx” and learns to love herself, “even the shameful bits”. 

This book is a delightful coming of age and coming out of the closet story. Juliet’s narration is honest and unfiltered which makes it feel really refreshing. She’s got a lot to say and a lot to learn about the world, and I like that the reader gets to discover this along with Juliet. The reader and Juliet learn about intersectionality, white feminism, and how to navigate the queer community. I like the complex, multi-dimensional characters and feel that they, and their experiences, mirror real life.

SR

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Dry

Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions: Seasonal, Refreshing, Alcohol-Free
by Clare Liardet
The Experiment, 2018. 143 pages. Nonfiction.

A little book with a lot of flavor, this collection of alcohol-free cocktails is a must for anyone interested in exploring sophisticated flavor profiles of the world of mocktails. In addition to the perfect primer on mixology that covers common terms and gear, each simple recipe walks you through either the flavor profile or benefits of the particular mocktail. From dessert to clever pick-me-ups, there is sure to be a new favorite drink for you to add to your week.

I'm always on the lookout for interesting flavor combinations and this recipe book doesn't disappoint. One of the things I love about mocktails is that you can make them for anyone. Good mocktails are an experience both lovely and delicious. Each recipe is accompanied by vibrant photos that provide serving suggestions, as well as a range of flavors from creative sodas like a Blueberry-Mint Julep to adventurous remakes like a Beet Virgin Mary. If you're curious about what is beyond soda and syrups, then Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions is a good place to start.

AS

Monday, March 15, 2021

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It


Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It
By Ethan Kross
Crown, 2021. 242 pgs. Nonfiction

Ethan Kross is an award-winning psychologist and a professor at the University of Michigan. He studies how to control emotions in order to have more self-control in daily life. In the book Chatter, he explains the importance of the inner voice in our daily lives. Using groundbreaking research from his own lab as well as case studies and his own experiences, he explains how the conversations we have with ourselves shape our lives, our work and our relationships. 

Let's be honest, most of us have a voice in our heads. This book helped me realize that it is normal, but that it is very important that we learn how to interact with the voice. Sometimes that voice can be our inner coach that encourages us to do something scary or hard. Other times it turns into our inner critic that spirals us into fear and inaction. When we give in to the negative self-talk, or as he refers to it, chatter; our health is worse, our mood goes down, and our relationships are not as good. I really liked that he had science to back up what he was teaching but that he did it in a way that was easy to read. 
 
Kross gave specific examples of things we can do to control our chatter. One of the simplest recommendations is to use your name or the word "you" when you are talking to yourself and don't use "I" or "me". It helps distance yourself from the emotion. For example, instead of saying, "I am really mad." I could say, "Amber is feeling really mad." It's a simple change but it works! I also loved that the back section is a categorized summary of the practical tips that were covered in the book. I learned a lot from this book and plan to start using many of the tools to control my chatter.

AL

The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids

 


The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids 
by Jessica Joelle Alexander 
Penguin Audio, 2016. Nonfiction 

 Danes are consistently rated the happiest people on Earth. We know it’s not because of sunshine or warm weather, so why are they so happy? Author Jessica Alexander is an American married to a Dane, living in Denmark, and uses her personal observations as a parent on Danish approaches and her professional knowledge as a licensed psychotherapist to connect Danish parenting with happier kids and adults. She builds her book around the word PARENT as an acronym: Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No ultimatums, and Togetherness. 

 Danish culture emphasizes we over me, or the whole over the individual, especially in family time and this is heavily reflected in their parenting. Other than some culturally influenced differences, the principles described here are positive parenting strategies. If you enjoy the principles in this book, I’d recommend looking at some other positive parenting resources for a more in-depth look at how to add these tools to your parenting toolbox. My personal favorite is How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber. 

ER

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Rich Dad, Poor Dad


Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Robert T. Kiyosaki
Plata Publishing, 2017. 352 pages. Nonfiction.

Robert Kiyosaki presents the basics of financial literacy by presenting the fiscal policies he learned from two men, his father and his friend's father. His father worked a traditional job, considered his house an asset, and believed in education (meaning a college degree) as one of the greatest driving factors behind lifelong success. His friend's father believed in taking financial risks when it made sense to do so, assets being only defined as things that make your money, and that and education (meaning a college degree) is only as useful as the financial education you pair with it. Kiyosaki walks you through the story of his own financial literacy journey from when he was a child and he collected toothpaste tubes to melt down and literally mint money with to today. He helps explain what assets should be, and how traditional assets like a house, often aren't an asset at all. 

After finished this book, much of the financial advice the flies around the internet finally made sense. Kiyosaki gives you a framework with which to evaluate and analyze financial information you hear in passing as potentially useful or potentially useless. It isn't a traditional book of finance that describes a specific type of investing or financial development. No, Kiyosaki presents the basics that schools don't teach, so that his readers can start to understand the financial world by its most basic units: assets and liabilities. This book is for anyone that might want to get started with becoming financially literate.

-SMM

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
Viking, 2020, 288 pages, Science Fiction

At a moment when everything seems to be going wrong and she is looking for an exit, Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library—a library full of books detailing all of the ways Nora’s life could have turned out differently. Nora learns how her life would be if she’d stayed with an old boyfriend, become an olympian, made it big with her old rock band, or realized her dreams of becoming a glaciologist. With each new life Nora tries out, Nora searches for the answer to what makes her actual life worth living.

If you’ve ever wondered how your life would have changed if you’d made a different decision, this book is for you. Haig keeps the tone fairly light even when Nora discovers that there are timelines that are even darker than the one she’s currently living, and he shows that even brighter timelines have downsides. The result is that the book becomes a life-affirming celebration of the little details of our day-to-day lives, and a promise that we can always make new choices tomorrow.

Although I read the hardcover version of this book, there is a small part of me that wishes I’d had the audiobook version, which is read by actress Carey Mulligan

MB

Think Like a Monk


Think Like a Monk: Train Your Brain for Peace and Purpose Every Day
By Jay Shetty
Simon & Schuster, 2020. 328 pgs. Nonfiction
 
Jay Shetty is a social media superstar and also hosts a popular podcast. In this book he shares valuable wisdom he learned during the years he was a monk. When he made the decision to become a monk, his family considered him a failure. He had just graduated from college and had a promising future in a large company. Instead he decided to dedicate his life to meditation and service. During the long hours of meditation he learned to get to the root of his true fears and to become selfless. In the book, he also talks about the importance of learning to breath correctly, skills for having better relationships, and the value of service.

I really enjoyed this book! I listened to the audiobook on Libby and it is read by the author. It felt more like having a conversation with a really good life coach. A lot of what Jay Shetty shared wasn't new, but the way he explained things resonated with me and made me consider what I could change in my life. I also appreciated that he gave examples of different types of meditation exercises for various situations. He also helped remind me of the importance of writing down the things I am grateful for. The thing I enjoyed most from this book were his personal stories of being a monk. He admitted that it was not easy and he struggled with a lot of the things he was expected to do as a monk, like waking up early, doing menial chores, and serving and loving everyone without expecting anything in return. His main message was that we don't have to be a monk to think like one. We can make small changes every day to retrain our brain and learn a new way of showing up in our lives.
 
AL

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Eat a Peach

Eat a Peach
By David Chang
Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2020. 288 pgs. Biography

David Chang is best known as the chef and owner of Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan's East Village, although he has by now opened several more restaurants in addition to Momofuku.  Chang is surprisingly open about challenges he has faced, including serious struggles with mental health that nearly cost him his life.  Chang isn't afraid to admit when he was wrong or made mistakes, and what it cost him to learn those lessons.  What he has learned along the way is relatable and even inspiring, and his journey as a chef becomes almost secondary to the description of his growth as a person. 

It seems like the chef biographies I have read have all included stories of hard work and overcoming big challenges.  But Chang's book stands out from the pack.  There is a vulnerability, a readiness to admit imperfections, and a steely determination that I haven't often seen in biographies.  There were even a few passages that I wrote down because they paint the world in a light I hadn't considered before.  His observations have an unexpected wisdom, insight, and depth that make this an inspiring read.  There is plenty of adult language in the book, but fans of biographies and stories of overcoming hardships should find a lot to love here.

BHG

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

A Court of Silver Flames

by Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021. 757 pages. Fantasy.

Sarah J. Maas returns to her Court of Thrones and Roses series with a new installment following Feyre's oldest sister, Nesta, and the Night Court General, Cassian. Following the events of the Hybern War, Nesta still hasn't made peace with her new body and new life. Nesta, always quick to anger, turns her hate inward with a deep dive into self-destructive behaviors until her family has had enough. She is forced to train with Cassian, which ignites her anger and the passion she's determined to ignore.

As Nesta fights to find peace despite her hatred, she discovers that the end of the War only brings a different type of battle, and the power to end it lies deep within herself. If only she can find the courage to confront it.

A Court of Silver Flames fits perfectly with the story and characters the author developed previously. Nesta and Cassian's story is filled with emotional tension, ethical dilemma, and steamy romance. With masterful narration and action, this book is a fun read and impossible to put down.

AS

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Best-Laid Plans

The Best-Laid Plans
by Sarah M. Eden 
Covenant Communications, 2021. 134 pages. Romance 

Newton Hughes has long dreamed of pursuing a career in law, an acceptable choice for a gentleman of status and wealth. His parents, however, disapprove of his ambition, urging him instead to take his rightful place as a gentleman of leisure—with a suitable wife of their choosing, of course. 

 Ellie Napper would like nothing more than for her parents to abandon their incessant efforts to marry her off to the greatest possible advantage. Her lack of matrimonial enthusiasm drives her family mad, but she refuses to feign frivolity in order to make herself more palatable to potential suitors. When Ellie and Newton are introduced through their mutual acquaintance, Charlie Jonquil, they commiserate over their shared plight. In desperation, they hatch a plan: Ellie and Newton will feign an interest in each other—enough to convince their parents not to push them toward unwanted matches but not enough to cause whispers or expectations. Their plot quickly spirals out of control, but the greatest complication is the one they didn't see coming: their plan never included falling in love. 

This is the perfect book to read if you are a fan of Sarah Eden’s Lancaster and Jonquil series. It introduces new characters that will lead into a new series of books and the romance is so sweet and simple. The story has a Cinderella quality and is fast paced and keeps you glued to the pages. It is a short book so perfect for those searching for a quick and fun read. If you have not read any of Eden’s books you don’t to read them in order to understand and enjoy this book. 

 ME

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Knitting the Galaxy

by Tanis Gray 
Insight Editions, 2021. 207 pgs. Nonfiction 

Tanis Gray and Insight Editions have done it again. In this first official Star Wars knitting pattern book, there are 28 beautiful patterns based on and inspired by the Skywalker Saga films. Projects are divided into four sections: toys, costume replicas, inspiring apparel, and home d├ęcor. In addition to the full color patterns, there are photos and behind-the-scenes information from the Star Wars films. A wide variety of techniques are used, including cabling, double knitting, beading, and stranded colorwork in a range of sizes and difficulties. 

This is a fun, beautiful, and creative book with a variety of projects. One of the biggest additions to this title is the costume replica section. It was difficult to pick just a few projects that were my favorites, but I love the “Rebel Alliance Shawl” for its subtlety and the “Yoda Mittens” and “Wookiee Socks” for their playfulness. The colors and photographs are beautiful for each project and evoke the magic and wonder of the Star Wars galaxy. There are projects for all skill levels, but it does not have a beginners’ guide, so a basic knowledge of knitting is needed. This is perfect for knitters or Star Wars lovers and simply beautiful to browse through. 

TT