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 pgs. 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