Monday, December 31, 2018

Geekerella

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

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

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

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

BHG

Sheets


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

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

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

TT

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hey, Kiddo

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

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

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


TT

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Courage to Be You

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

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

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

AL

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stranger Things Have Happened

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

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

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

HS

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The 57 Bus

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

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

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

ACS

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

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

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

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

MB

The Kiss Quotient

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

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

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

MB

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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

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

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

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


AGP


Monday, December 10, 2018

Touch of Frost

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

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

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

 ER

Victoria and Albert: A Royal Love Affair

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

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

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

AG




Friday, December 7, 2018

Annie on my Mind

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

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

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

RC

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Archived

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

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

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

AU

Finish

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done
By Jonathan Acuff
Portfolio/Penguin, 2017. 196 pgs. Nonfiction

Jonathan Acuff admits at the beginning of this book that he wrote a whole book about the wrong thing several years ago. Back then he was encouraging everyone to start. Make the effort to get started and that is the most important thing. Now he has realized that it is more important to figure out how to finish. We all seem pretty good at starting our goals. The biggest problem when trying to accomplish a goal is not laziness, it is actually perfectionism. Sometimes we won't even write down a goal because we already doubt our ability to finish it. As soon as we mess up on a goal, the majority of us will quit. Acuff claims there are some simple things we can do to overcome perfectionism and finish our goals like cut the goal in half, choose something to bomb, make it fun, and don't distract yourself with noble obstacles.

I have been reading a lot of self-help books lately and I usually find a couple things to apply to my life but this book is a game-changer for my life. One of the things that really resonated with me was when the author said that the most important day of any goal is "the day after perfect". It's what we choose to do the day after we don't get our exercise in, or eat the doughnut, or loose the receipt we needed for our budget. Will we do what the majority of people do and quit, or will we find a way to readjust and keep going. I listened to this on Libby and highly recommend it. The author narrates this book in a personable and engaging way. He also added some "bonus" material not found in the printed book.

AL

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sea Witch

Sea Witch 
by Sarah Hennings
Katherine Tegen Books, 2018. 348 pages. Young Adult

Evie has not been the same since her best friend Anna was lost to the sea. When a girl who closely resembles Anna appears on the shore, with magical powers and a mission to win the heart of a prince who happens to be Evie’s best friend, she jumps at the chance to help her any way she can. Not everyone so easily accepts this new Anna look-a-like, or believes she is who she says, but Evie doesn’t heed the warnings and misgivings of others in the community. All she knows is that she couldn’t bear to lose even this mysterious semblance of her beloved friend again.

This book is an imaginative origin story of a recognizable villain, the Sea Witch from the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale, “The Little Mermaid”. The mix of magic, love, suspense, and danger brings something to the table for panoply of readers and is a sure hit for fans of fairy tale retellings. While I felt the ending was a little rushed, getting there was the real joy of this book, wondering what twists and turns were coming to have created such a monster.

RC

Monday, December 3, 2018

Sadie

Sadie
by Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books, 2018. 311 pgs. Young Adult Fiction.

Sadie was always more of a mom to Mattie than an older sister and when Mattie is found dead in the woods, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. She decides to hunt down the man who she thinks did it—her mom’s ex-boyfriend, Keith. This book is told in alternating perspectives between Sadie’s first person narrative and a podcast called The Girls hosted by West McCray.

I love true crime podcasts so I thought this book would be right up my alley with the podcast element. The reader can choose to either listen to the actual podcast or just read the podcast’s transcript in the book, which is what I did. This book was so much heavier than I anticipated and deals with hard topics including drug addiction, sexual abuse, and pedophilia. The podcast element is interesting and creates the opportunity for a third person narrative that keeps the suspense alive. I would recommend this book for others who enjoy true crime podcasts as long as they don’t mind the difficult content.

AU

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere 
By Celest Ng
Penguin Press, 2017. 338 pgs. Fiction

In Shaker Heights, a prosperous suburb of Cleveland, life is fairly calm with everyone keeping the status quo. Then visionary artist and single mother Mia arrives with her teenage daughter, Pearl. Elena Richardson thinks it would be a kind gesture to rent a house to Mia and Pearl for very little cost in exchange for some basic housekeeping. Such close proximity to the Richardsons builds a tight relationship, but when a family friend tries to adopt a Chinese-American baby and the distraught birthmother finds out, a custody battle ensues that divides the town, the family, and prompts Elena Richardson to look into Mia’s past, uncovering secrets she has been running from for years.

This is the type of novel that reminds me that perspective is everything. Only the reader sees the complexities of everyone’s lives, while each character struggles with their own limited understanding. Little Fires Everywhere is intricate, moving, and thought provoking. I found myself often cheering for one character, while simultaneously feeling heartbroken for another. If you’re looking for a weighty read that will stick with you long after you close the book, this is definitely something you’ll want to check out.

ACS

Angels: Agents of Light, Love, and Power

Angels: Agents of Light, Love, and Power 
by Donald W. Parry Deseret Book, 2013. 260 pgs. Non-fiction.

If you have ever had a question about the nature of angels and how they interact with people living on the earth, this book has done all of that research for you. From a doctrinal perspective of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Donald W. Parry presents a comprehensive compilation of scriptural references to angels as well as references from early Church history and statements by modern prophets of said church. Each short chapter covers a specific aspect or sub-topic of the subject in a clear and concise manner.

While somewhat dry, since it mostly presents information with little commentary from the author, I found this book to be fascinating. It is thoroughly researched, well organized, and quite insightful. I definitely walked away with a deeper understanding of the topic. I would highly recommend this as a first stop for anyone interested in learning more about angels.

 ER

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto
edited by Joan Reardon
Mariner Books, 432 pages. Nonfiction.

Julia Child is famous for her cooking, her size, and her voice. But one lesser known thing about Julia Child is that she was a prolific letter writer. One of her favorite correspondents was her dear friend Avis DeVoto. Some may have heard about Avis from her brief mention in the movie Julie and Julia, but as is often the case, the movie doesn't do her justice at all. Avis DeVoto was a writer and a chef in her own right. She was an inspirational and a driving force behind both of Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The letters between these two friends over the space of a lifetime are revealing of their humor, their intelligence, and their spunk.

I loved reading these letters. Julia has always been like a giant good fairy in my life. She blossomed at age 40, found the love of her life and her true calling. She learned what she really believed, even though it wasn't what her family raised her to believe. She loved her country passionately but also loved the world outside of it. These letters are full of life, and love, and FOOD.





Saturday, December 1, 2018

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
By Hank Green
Dutton, 2018. 343 pgs. SCI-FI

On her way home from work at 3:00 AM, April May stumbles across a giant robot sculpture (whom she dubs “Carl”) in the middle of New York City. She can’t find any information about it online, so, thinking it’s a new art installation, invites a friend to film a video about it for his YouTube channel. When the video goes viral she discovers that 64 Carls (whose physical properties defy all known science) have appeared globally overnight, and she has become an instant celebrity. April strives to understand where the mysterious Carls came from, why they’re here, and what exactly they are, all while navigating her complicated new life in the public eye.

This novel has several carefully crafted layers that make an absolutely remarkable whole. While the driving force is the mystery of the Carls and how the world reacts to their sudden appearance, it’s also about the power of social media, its effect on people, the struggle of adjusting to life in the public eye, and how others (friends, family, acquaintances, business, the general public, etc.) react or try to take advantage of celebrity status. Hank Green, who has a large online following, is in a position to write about these issues in a realistic way, and it felt genuine to me. I loved April May as a character, and can hardly wait for the sequel. Highly recommended.

ACS

Kiss of the Spindle

Kiss of the Spindle
By Nancy Campbell Allen
Shadow Mountain, 2018. 360 pgs. Romance

Dr. Isla Cooper has dedicated her life to serving others, especially predatory shifters that transform into animals on the full moon. Unfortunately, she has been cursed to a death-like sleep at the stoke of midnight each night which makes her job almost impossible. She is desperate to find a way to break the curse before it becomes permanent on the one year mark. She bullies her way onto the private airship of Daniel Pickett, headed to the Caribbean. She doesn't realize that Captain Pickett is transporting three illegal shapeshifters and the despicable Nigel Crowe, who is a government official determined to exterminate every shapeshifter in England. Isla and Daniel must work together to protect the shapeshifters and find the cure for her curse before time runs out.

I'm usually not a big fan of steampunk, but this retelling of Sleeping Beauty was a lot of fun. Isla is a fiercely independent character that must learn to rely on others. Daniel is a handsome knight in shining armor but he has his own secrets to hide. The side characters are well developed and added a lot to the story. This was a great fairy-tale retelling with mystery, magic, adventure and romance. Kiss of the Spindle is part of the Proper Romance line of books being published by Shadow Mountain.

AL

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Carnelian Crow


by Colleen Gleason
Avid Press, 2017. 267 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

 Following the disaster of the Chess Queen Enigma, Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker have tried to settle back into their lives as young ladies of London. But when Mina receives a strange package from a winged visitor at midnight, she is thrown into a new mysterious adventure: the search for the Carnelian Crow. Despite warnings from Inspector Grayling, and a personal dilemma that leaves Evaline reeling, the two ladies know that they must stop the Ankh from completing her boldest plan yet.

With intriguing characters and a new mystery to solve, I thoroughly enjoyed this newest installment of the Stoker & Holmes series. The main characters are strong, independent, and intelligent ladies at a time when that was discouraged. My favorite part of these books is the steampunk technology that makes their world unique. With the mystery and a little romance, this is a quick, simple read that was enjoyable and fun.

TT

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The Beekeeper's Apprentice
By Laurie R. King
Picador, 1994. 346 pages. Mystery

Mary Russell has moved back to Sussex in preparation for her entrance to Oxford in the fall.  While on a walk in the countryside, she encounters none other than the retired Sherlock Holmes, pursuing his study of honeybee behavior.  Holmes is struck by Mary's innate talent for deduction and her keen intellect, and the two strike up an unusual relationship - part friendship, apprenticeship, and partnership.

It seems that for readers who may have strong feelings about the Sherlock Holmes world and don't like to see its characters tampered with, this book may chafe against some expectations.  For me, however, the was an unexpectedly delightful story with a tight narrative, witty dialogue, and enjoyable characters.  This is the first in a long mystery series involving Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, and I am already eager for more.

BHG

The Convenient Marriage

The Convenient Marriage
By Georgette Heyer
Arrow, 1934. 272 pages. Romance

When Horatia's older sister Lizzie is proposed to by Lord Marcus Drelincourt, Horatia knows it spells disaster for Lizzie, who is in love with an impoverished military man.  Horatia decides the only thing to be done is to approach Drelincourt herself and ask if he will take her instead, as she suspects his only real interest is to marry into her family.  She promises to do her best to stay out of his way and make him a good wife.  To her surprise, he agrees, and they wed in what she assumes is a marriage of convenience.  Seeking to distract herself after marriage, she forms a friendship with the exciting but dangerous Lord Robert Lethbridge.  When she becomes tangled in a web of trouble,  she begins to realize that the man she married for convenience means more to her than she expected, and begins to see that she means more to Lord Drelincourt than she dared hope.

I listened to this audiobook on a recommendation that the narration by Richard Armitage was worth it, which indeed, it was.  Armitage's skillful charisma carries over easily into audiobook narration and is a joy to listen to. The story itself was enjoyable enough.  Horatia's character, while initially bold and brave, lapses into a series of bad decisions that require a bit of patience from the reader to endure.  It also seems as though this book has one of those relationship trials that could have been solved if the characters in question simply had an honest conversation months in the past.  But all in all, this is a light, enjoyable read.

BHG

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Knit Yourself Calm: A Creative Path to Managing Stress

Knit Yourself Calm: A Creative Path to Managing Stress 
by Lynne Rowe
Search Press, 2017. 112 pgs. Non-fiction.

The author knows knitting is relaxing and science agrees! People who knit frequently are happier for it, even those with clinical depression. Even if you’ve never touched a knitting needle in your life, don’t discount this method of stress management just yet. Rowe has created a simple beginners how-to knit book so that anyone regardless of skill level can access the calming power of knitting. The book consists of a short explanation of the mental benefits of regular knitting, what you’ll need to get started, a projects section, and simple instructions for knitting techniques needed to complete the projects.

At first I decided to pick up knitting because my child is less likely to draw blood with knitting needles than embroidery needles, but then I saw this book and thought the stress relieving aspect an equally attractive quality. I started with a child’s hat, which I will hopefully finish while it’s still cold, but so far it’s been simple. The instructions in the book are easy to follow and nearly adequate on their own, but I did need to supplement with a couple of online videos to feel like I really understood. My only real complaint is the lack of left-handed instructions, but that isn’t a problem for most people. Overall this is a great beginner’s guide to knitting, with some interesting information about the mental health benefits of picking up the hobby.

ER

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
By Brené Brown
Random House, 2018. 320 pages Nonfiction.

Brené Brown is best known for her research on vulnerability, shame, and setting good boundaries. She brings this research to the board room in this version of Daring Greatly for managers. For Brown, leadership is about seeing an employee as a whole person, not just a list of statistics or a series of bottom lines. The job of a leader is to help each whole person to reach their potential and to build teams that function as teams, not as separate individuals with different agendas. Leadership is about having difficult conversations, stepping up with courage and curiosity when something goes wrong, and having compassion. But daring leadership in a culture of scarcity and manipulation and fear is difficult. That's where courage comes in again.

Though this book focuses on businesses specifically, it is also a culmination of all of her books and practices. What is compelling is that Brown writes about her own mistakes as a leader and CEO and shows how she has to rumble every day with her team over issues that could eventually bring them down if not addressed. I found myself thinking about my own leadership skills and how I interact with my coworkers and leaders. It was a very introspective read with lots of applicable information and resources.


AG

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Pemmican Wars (A Girl Called Echo #1)

by Katherena Vermette
Highwater Press, 2017. 47 pgs. Young Adult Comics

Echo is a 13-year-old girl living in modern day Canada, and is adjusting to a new home, new school, and a separation from her mother. One day during history class, she slips back in time to a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie. In the following weeks, Echo travels back several times and learns about her heritage as a Môetis Indian and the Pemmican Wars

This is a beautiful story about how learning about your history, culture, and heritage can provide understanding and comfort in times of need. I learned a lot about Canadian history that I previously did not know, and could recognize similarities between the experiences of the native people in Canada and the United States. This was a quick read, but the illustrations are beautiful and I experienced my own reflection about my heritage and how much of it influences me today.

TT


Venetia

Venetia
by Georgette Heyer
Heinemann Books, 1958. 355 pages. Romance

Venetia is beautiful, clever, sensible, and firmly on the shelf. Her restrictive life in the country prevented her from experiencing a London Season and now her only marriage prospects are a puppy-like youth and an over persistent man. She thus resigns herself to spinsterhood. Then her neighbor, Lord Damerel, arrives. Though he is a notorious rake, she soon finds herself falling in love with him.

Richard Armitage. Do I have your attention?  Good. I listened to this book on the Libby app and Richard Armitage was the narrator. Now, Richard Armitage could read a phone book and I would listen from A to Z. That being said, his voice added a lot to the experience of this book for me. I was not particularly supportive of the love interest, but I didn't mind his offensive behavior half as much as I would have simply because the narration was amazing. This romance was a clean read and there were plot twists that kept me interested. As a general rule, I will always recommend Georgette Heyer. However, I highly recommend listening to this one for a Richard experience.

HS

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe
by Heather Smith

PRH Canada Young Readers Penguin Teen. 2017. 256 pages. Young Adult. 


It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother's house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family — a family of friends who care. 

I read this book as an ebook on the Libby app.This book is listed as a Young Adult read, but the reader should be aware that it contains mature themes such as homophobia, prejudice, and child molestation. The book is filled with raw emotion and can be absolutely heartbreaking at times, but the extraordinary effort a family of misfits makes to care for an abandoned, emaciated teen provides some healing and warmth to the storyline. I would recommend this book to a reader who is aged 14 or older and is looking for a story with diverse, quirky characters, unique backstories, and fun pop culture references in addition to the mature themes previously listed. 

NS

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Monster Hunter International

Monster Hunter International
by Larry Correia
Baen Books, 2009, 736 pgs, Sci-Fi

One day Owen Zastava Pitt got to live the true American Dream, he got to throw his horrible boss out of a fourteen story window and smush him with a desk when his boss turned into a werewolf and tried to kill him. Owen wakes up in the hospital covered with injuries, an notice from his accounting firm informing him he was fired due to breaking the no weapons at work policy, and a job offer. What the Feds don’t want you to know is monsters are real and everything you can imagine from a B-horror film is waiting in the shadows. Because there are all of these creatures there is also a team who hunt the things which hunt the edges of your nightmares, they are known as Monster Hunter International. Join Owen and a group of survivors as they go head to head with creatures which haunt normal peoples nightmares and earn a nice commission as they go.

Can I just say how much I loved this book? This was such a fun read for me; I loved the dialog between the characters. I LOVE OWEN and his views on running he and I agree 100%. He is a gun nut and it was really entertaining to read about how excited they got over the variety of gun modifications they were able to come up with. There is some language so some readers may not enjoy that but overall wonderful story wonderful plot and I hope you have as much fun reading this as I did.

MH

Promises and Primroses

Promises and Primroses
By Josi S. Kilpack
Shadow Mountain, 2018. 322 pgs. Fiction

Elliott Mayfield has had to sacrifice a lot to save his family's fortune. He is tired of the disgrace his siblings have brought to the family name so he decides to undertake a 'marriage campaign' to try to ensure that his nieces and nephews make better marriages. Meanwhile, his nephew Peter is trying to find a governess for his two young daughters after the death of his wife. Marriage is the last thing on his mind and he has no time for his uncles campaign. Peter's new governess Julia is the perfect match for his family but she is the daughter of Elliott's long lost love and the mother is strongly against her daughter being involved with the Mayfield family in any way. 

This book has two different story lines, Elliott and Amelia's and Peter and Julia's. At first I was worried that it would be too hard to keep track of all the different main characters, but the story blended together perfectly. The reader gets a chance to see each person's perspective and realize their individual challenges and frustrations. This is the first book in the Mayfield Family series and I look forward to seeing these characters again in future books. This series is also part of the Proper Romance line of books being published by Shadow Mountain which means it is a great romance story without any questionable content.

AL

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Simplicity of Cider

The Simplicity of Cider
by Amy Reichert
New York : Gallery Books, 2017. 313 pages ; 21 cm Romance.

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.


This is the perfect book to cuddle up with and get in the mood for fall given that the story takes place on a family-owned apple orchard in rural Wisconsin. The characters are made vulnerable by the high transparency of their flaws, which makes it easy for the readers to relate to and fall in love with them. I was also impressed by the author's effort to include details on the cider-making process. This book is great for someone looking for a clean romance which moves at a steady pace and has a cozy setting for the reader to melt into.

NS

The Storyteller

 The Storyteller 

by Jodi Picoult
Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books, 2013. 460 pages. General Fiction.

Sage Singer, a reclusive local baker, attends a grief group to help her mourn the recent loss of her mother in an accident. It is here that she meets 95 year old Josef Weber, a German teacher and well-loved member of the community who soon confesses his dark past. He believes Sage can grant him the forgiveness he seeks, and she is shocked when he asks her to help him die, causing her to question her beliefs--and to wonder, in the face of the atrocities he admits to committing, if his request would be murder or justice?

Historical fiction leaning books are not generally what I am drawn to, and I’ll admit that I’ve never read one of Picoult’s books (I know, bad librarian), but this one had me hooked. I relished the storytelling in its various forms throughout the book- from Sage’s current moral dilemma, to flashbacks told by her grandmother, and the fictional allegory woven within the world of the book. Both harrowing and heart wrenching, this book twists and twirls and takes the reader on a ride, and in less capable hands, could have been a melancholic or sentimental mess, but was pleasantly surprising and well paced.

I read this book with a book club and it brings up many interesting topics for discussion including WWII, justice, perception, forgiveness, redemption, and more. The library offers this book as a Book Club Set, which you can check out for your own book club as well!

RC

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

Cover image for The good neighbor : the life and work of Fred RogersThe Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers
by Maxwell King
Abrams Press, 2018, 406 pages, Biography

Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, the author traces the iconic children's program host's personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work.

Riding on the wave of Mr. Rogers nostalgia that started with the documentary, this book expands on the endearing life story of one of America’s favorite people. When I saw that this book was read by LeVar Burton, another beloved figure from my PBS-filled childhood, I knew I had to listen to the audio version of the book. While Burton’s narration was good, the real appeal for me turned out to be the stories of Mr. Rogers’ life when he was off-camera. It was a relief to have it enforced that one of my favorite people growing up really did believe that everyone is special “by just your being you.”

MB

My Plain Jane

Cover image for My plain Jane
My Plain Jane
by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
HarperTeen, 2018, 450 pages, Young Adult

You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester--and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she? Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Bronte, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

If you’ve already read My Lady Jane by the same authors, you know that they love to take well-known stories and turn them on their heads by adding a bit of fantasy, interesting characters, and plenty of wit. This time, instead of telling a story from history, they revise Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, reimagined so that Jane can see ghosts and the head of a ghost-hunting team is trying to recruit her. This hilarious book is a great addition to the series, and it will be adored by anyone who enjoys books like Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair or William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.

MB

Monday, November 5, 2018

Little White Lies

Little White Lies
By Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Freeform, 2018. 400 pgs. Young Adult.

Sawyer Taft is doing just fine when her rich grandmother, Lillian Taft, shows up at her front door with an offer and a contract. If Sawyer agrees to live with Lillian for nine months and participate in a debutante season, Lillian will pay her $500,000. Although Sawyer doesn’t forgive Lillian for ignoring her and her mother for the last 18 years, the promised payout is too good to pass up. That’s how Sawyer finds herself rubbing elbows with members of high society, going to brunch at the local country club, and in a jail cell with three other debutantes.

I really enjoyed Sawyer as a character. She was smart and tough but had a softer side to her as well. I thought her development throughout the story was great and seemed genuine as she came to care for her cousin and the other debutantes. I thought the story was told well through flash backs that kept the reader intrigued. I also enjoyed that the focus of the story was more on Sawyer’s relationships with her mother, Lily, and Lillian instead of with a boy. My only criticism is that the ending was sudden with a giant twist that didn’t seem wholly necessary. I would recommend this book for anyone who is already a fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes or anyone who is looking for a book filled with secrets and intrigue but limited on the romance.

AU

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window
By A.J. Finn
William Morrow, 2018. 449 pgs. Fiction.

Dr. Anna Fox used to be a brilliant child psychologist, but now she can’t even leave her own house. An accident last winter has caused her to become agoraphobic and she now spends her time self-medicating and drinking bottle after bottle of Merlot while observing her neighbors. Anna is particularly interested in the new family that moved in across the park—the Russells. One night, she sees something she shouldn’t and the walls she has built up to keep herself safe start to crumble.

I’m new to the mystery/thriller genre and to unreliable narrators, so maybe I was a little too easily impressed by this book and all of its twists and turns. However, I thought it was a quick and engaging read that had me hooked from the beginning. Even though I enjoyed it overall, I was often frustrated with Anna because of how much she drank—it seemed like a simple solution to get people to start taking her seriously would be to stop mixing alcohol with her medications. I also wanted her to get one of those weekday pill boxes so she would stop double and triple dosing. This book had me guessing from beginning to end and I would recommend it for other people who are also new to the genre.

AU

Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth 
by Zoje Stage
St. Martin’s Press, 2018. 304 pages, General Fiction

Hanna, at 7 years old, doesn’t speak. She barks and menaces others, can’t go to school because she terrorizes other students, and has now begun to turn her wrathful attention to her mother. A master manipulator, she hides her true colors from her father, and attempts to drive a wedge between her parents so that her ultimate plot, to remove her mother from the picture and have all of her father’s love for herself, grows darker and more diabolical.

A suspenseful and disturbing tale of mother versus daughter, this book is not for everyone, but is a page turner for those who like an unpredictable and psychologically chilling romp. It deftly weaves the perspective between Hanna’s view and her mother’s, propelling the story forward around each twist and turn. The author differentiated the character’s voices in the book in a unique way, and though child-like, it was clear that Hanna’s threat was real and imminent. Both Hannah and her mother are sympathetic characters, even though Hannah is clearly disturbed, you can't help but feel the pain and confusion she expresses. I don’t know what stories of demonic or maniacal children say about our culture, but this one was a well written and entertaining stretch of the imagination.

RC

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Eleanor and the Iron King

Eleanor and the Iron King
by Julie Daines
Covenant Communications Inc., 2015, 202 pgs. Romance

 Eleanor de Lacy, daughter of an English earl, has been bartered as a bride to the enemy in exchange for peace. Eleanor knows little about her husband-to-be, the Welsh king Brach Goch, only that he is a ruthless leader responsible for attacks on her people and the death of her beloved brother. Once she reaches the Welsh king’s castle, she receives ominous warnings from a terrifying ghost: Brach cannot be trusted. However she begins to realize all is not as it seems, and finds herself in the middle of a web of deceit. She must decide who to trust, and who to love.

 Honestly I found the character development to be rather wanting, but I feel like it helps establish this book as a light read. The encounters with the ghost kept things interesting and helped move the plot. I also really enjoyed the Welsh setting. This book would be great for someone looking for a clean romance, or a casual read that won’t demand much thought to enjoy.

 ER

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hocus Pocus & The All New Sequel

Hocus Pocus & The All New Sequel
by A. W Jantha , Matt Griffin
Disney Press, 2018, 528 pgs, Young Adult

The first half of this book is the Hocus Pocus from the 90’s all about Max the virgin who lit the black flamed candle which brought the Sanderson sisters back to life for the night of Halloween. Max, his little sister Danny, and Allison partner up with the 300 year old cat Binx to stop the Sanderson sisters from killing all of the children in Salem. Fast forward 25 years to tonight on All Hallows Eve, Max and Allison’s daughter Poppy can barely handle the mention of Halloween after she had a horrible experience being teased after telling friends about her family’s history with Halloween and the Sanderson sisters. Poppy has a crush on her classmate Isabella and is dying with worry of what her superstitious parents are going to say on this one Halloween night they invite the entire school to their house for a party. When Poppy and her friends sneak over to the Sanderson house they accidentally summon the sisters and have to work to send them back to Hell or risk losing her family forever.

I am a total 90’s child I loved listening to the first section of this book and re-living all of my childhood memories. I had a lot of fun going through the second half of the story and finding the parallels and imagining the characters going through all of this tonight. This book was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.

MH

Willowkeep : a Regency romance

Willowkeep : a Regency romance
by Julie Daines
Covenant Communications, Inc., 2016, 267 pgs. Romance

Charlotte Darby is left to take care of her special needs sister when her mother dies and shortly after her father is lost at sea, when suddenly a solicitor from London brings news that she has inherited an estate in Kent. She quickly relies on the estate’s steward Henry Morland to help her navigate this new life she has been introduced to. She soon has a lot of decisions to make when people start plotting to take her new life away from her and her sister.

 This was a fun feel good romance. I loved how the author handled the special needs sister and while she never specifies what kind of need she had she illustrated very well how hard it would have been for this young woman to have a job which could pay for their needs and still take care of her sister. I loved the variety of relationships which were included in this story and not all of them were warm and loving.

MH

Starflight

Starflight
By Melissa Landers
Hyperion, 2016. 368 pgs. Young Adult

Opposites and enemies since high school, Doran Spaulding is a pretty-boy from a wealthy family and wants for nothing, while Solara Brooks wants a fresh start where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. When Doran experiences a brief bout of amnesia, Solara is able to convince him that he is in service to her, switching social statuses with him as she heads to the outer realm on a renegade ship with an eccentric crew to get her fresh start. However, when Doran is framed for conspiracy, both of them are suddenly on the run for different reasons.

I originally became interested in this novel because I liked the idea of the two characters switching social statuses. I wanted the spoiled and prideful Doran to get what was coming to him, but as I read on this book became so much more than that. It was about friendship, what it means to be family, and deciding what’s most important in life. Often I find that I like plot or characterization more in a book, but I feel like both were well done in this case. I could easily recommend this to others.

ACS

The Chaos of Standing Still

The Chaos of Standing Still
By Jessica Brody
Simon Pulse, 2017. 406 pgs. Young Adult

On New Year’s Eve a massive blizzard shuts down Denver International Airport, leaving 18-year-old Ryn trapped overnight on the anniversary of her best friend’s, Lottie’s, death. Ryn still has Lottie’s last text message, unopened and waiting for a year, sitting on her phone. She can’t bring herself to open it, to read Lottie’s last words to her. When she literally bumps into Xander and they accidentally swap phones, she’s thrust into an all-night adventure complete with mysterious strangers, a massive party, a conspiracy, and coming to terms with the past.

 This book was a roller coaster of emotions, and I loved it. Ryn has a lot going on in her head that I can relate to. She’s struggling in a variety of ways but and has coping mechanisms that, while perhaps not healthy, are just the way she deals with things. Those who like contemporary, realistic, young adult fiction will want to pick this book up. I hope if I ever get trapped in an airport I find an adventure like Ryn’s.

ACS

Robin

Robin
by Dave Itzkoff
Henry Holt and Co., 2018. 544 pgs. Biography

I think most people who were alive during the height of Robin Williams' career can't help but be familiar with his electric energy and quick wit.  Many even feel a sort of connection to him, as his performances could have a heart that touched audiences everywhere. The outcry over his death was felt around the world. Itzkoff attempts as complete a portrait as we may be able to get about Williams in this book. I appreciated that much of his work (films, etc) was described for the benefit of those who might not have seen every movie and stand up performance. Throughout the book it seems as though there was foreshadowing to Williams' future, an allusion to a troubled soul, which seemed a bit sad to me that Williams' death casts a shadow over his decades-long career. But the book does a good job of capturing what was special about Williams, not put succinctly into one description but rather ascertained from a long look across the years.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator does a great job of imitating Robin's voice and manner of speaking, and even many of the voices and impressions that Williams himself did.  There is plenty of adult language and sexual innuendo.

BHG

The Comic Book Story of Baseball

by Alexander C. Irvine
Ten Speed Press, 2018. 171 pgs. Nonfiction

Starting in the earliest days of baseball, this title covers the history of baseball down to the current day. It talks about rules, equipment, leagues, and other developments that influenced how the game is played today. Some of the major controversies, like segregations, are discussed at length, as well as international developments in baseball and the world. There are stories about important or interesting individuals, as well as achievements and records that have lasted for years. The comic book format allows for smaller paragraphs and less dense reading, while still maintaining the breadth and details. The illustrations are in a traditional style, reminiscent of early baseball trading cards, and enhance the information presented.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book on the history of baseball. I was drawn into the stories about individual people and how they affected the game, as well as the overarching history of the development of baseball. There is tons of detail, but is often presented in quick side notes that work well in the comic book format. It took me much longer to read than I was expecting, but I was fascinated throughout the whole book. I would recommend them to anyone who wanted to learn more about baseball, or a student who is looking for a great book for a project or book report.


TT

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go
By Amy E. Reichert
Gallery Books, 2018. 330 pgs. Fiction

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go follows the life of Gina, a grilled cheese connoisseur. After the loss of her husband, Gina can barely keep her life together. Between running her own business, mothering a rebellious teenager, and placating her critical mother, she's not sure how she can go on without the support of her late husband. When her mother is unexpectedly hospitalized, an old secret surfaces that just might help Gina let go and move forward.

Honestly, this book wasn't what I expected. I picked it up without reading the synopsis and thought it was going to be a nonfiction guide to processing grief. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I realized it was an actual story with a plot. The characters were flawed, yet relatable, and the story was relationship driven (which I adore). The description of Gina's grilled cheese sandwiches had me salivating and resulted in me buying a lot of bread and cheese. The language was colorful at times, which was a turn off for me. As a whole, this book was well written and portrayed different manifestations of grief in a beautiful way.

HS