Monday, September 16, 2019

One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying
By Karen M. McManus
Delacorte Press, 2017. 360 pgs. Young Adult

Five high profile teens walk into detention, but only four walk out alive. Simon, the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app has been murdered, but who did it? Everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden, and as preprogramed blog posts go up, gradually revealing secrets, the question remains. Who killed Simon? Those with him in detention are now the primary suspects, could it have been Bronwyn, the smart, Yale-bound student; Addy, the beautiful homecoming princess; Nate, the criminal who’s already had several run-ins with the law; or perhaps Cooper, the all-star athlete everyone loves? One thing’s for sure, no one is quite as they seem.

I really enjoyed the characterization, even though it depended heavily on stereotypes. That’s something that normally bothers me, but I felt it was done well and the characters were still well developed. The story definitely had me suspecting everyone, and even then there was still a twist at the end. Overall a well-done mystery, and one that I could easily recommend to others.

ACS

Friday, September 13, 2019

Super Late Bloomer

Super Late Bloomer
By Julia Kaye
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018. 158 pgs. Graphic Novel

Julia Kaye made short comics documenting the early period of her gender transition. This touching and personal memoir includes episodes dealing with gender dysphoria, reactions from friends and family, the small actions and comments from strangers that affected how she saw herself, and a variety of other circumstances and emotions.

This is an easily digestible graphic novel with a short, four panel comic on each page. Each vignette is special and impactful in its own way. Whether it shows the devastation of the Amazon delivery person saying “here you go, sir,” or the elation of her parents finally getting her pronouns correct without correction, these comics highlight small moments that can be hard to express in other ways. When I picked this book up I didn’t intend to get sucked in right away. I thought I’d just read a few pages and move on, but it went so quick that I couldn’t put it down. An hour later I finished it and wanted more. This is easily something I could recommend to others, especially for someone looking for a quick foray into graphic novels.

ACS

The Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West

Cover image for Aloha rodeo : three Hawaiian cowboys, the world's greatest rodeo, and a hidden history of the American West
The Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West
by David Wolman and Julian Smith
William Morrow, 2019, 242 pages, Nonfiction

Cheyenne, Wyoming, is famous for hosting the biggest rodeo in the West. When it first started, it drew acts like Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, and sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Surely, this was the place where the prowess of the American cowboy was best on display. But in 1908, three paniolo (cowboys) from Hawaii competed in the Wyoming rodeo as well, and proved that they had just as rich of a cattle tradition as the American West. This is the story not only of an historic event in history, but also of Hawaii’s cattle culture and the rise of the paniolo.

I have to admit that I had no idea that there were cattle on the Hawaiian islands until I read this book. Although this is a microhistory focused on Hawaii’s cattle culture, that culture was wrapped up in the Hawaiian monarchy, in the effects of world trade on Hawaii, and in America’s eventual takeover of the Hawaiian government.

Learning of the complexity of Hawaii’s cattle culture was fascinating, but mostly this book focuses on the prowess of Hawaii’s paniolo, or cowboys, and I gained a lot of respect for them. Hawaiian paniolo had to manage not the rocky terrain of the high desert, but mountainsides made of lava rock and dense with forests. One of Hawaii’s best paniolo spent much of his career with only one hand. This was a fascinating way to learn about the history of Hawaii, and to see how the introduction of ranching in both Hawaii and the American West had both similar and vastly different outcomes.

MB

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hope and Other Punchlines

Cover image for Hope and other punchlines
Hope and Other Punchlines
by Julie Buxbaum
Delacorte Press, 2019, 306 pages, Young Adult Fiction

On Abbi Hope Goldstein’s first birthday, she became a national treasure. On that day, September 11, 2001, a picture of her holding a red balloon as she was being carried from the wreckage of the Twin Towers made national headlines. Even now, when people find out that Abbi is Baby Hope, they all feel compelled to tell her their September 11th stories. This is especially hard since Abbi lives in the town that experienced the most deaths per capita on September 11th. Looking for a chance to get away from it all, Abbi gets a summer job two counties away as a camp counselor.

When Noah Stern, aspiring comedian, head of the school newspaper, and fellow camp counselor recognizes Abbi, he sees this as his lucky break. Noah has been obsessed with the photograph of Baby Hope as long as he can remember. With Abbi’s help, he wants to find out as much as he can about all of the other people in the iconic Baby Hope photograph. But Abbi isn’t interested in revisiting the day she became Baby Hope. Noah will have to do all he can to charm himself into Abbi’s good graces.

I was really impressed with the way Buxbaum balances the elements of a light teenage romance with a heavy subject. She’s not afraid to discuss topics such as the health effects survivors of 9/11 face, or the trauma and loss that they experienced. At the same time, this book is full of the promise and possibility that new friendship and love brings. In doing so, this book becomes a great way of honoring the people who went through a horrible tragedy without becoming too depressing. But the main reason people will read this novel is because Abbi and Noah are both likeable and real (and slightly nerdy). It was fun to see their grudging friendship turn into something more.

MB

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Forward Me Back to You

Forward Me Back to You
By Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019. 432 pgs. Young Adult

Katina King is strong, skilled in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and stands up for herself. When a traumatic event leaves her broken, her mom doesn’t know how to help her. Robin Thornton was adopted from Kolkata, knows nothing about his past, and is reluctant to commit to future plans. When both teens visit India on a service trip to help survivors of human trafficking, they are forced to face the most difficult parts of their lives as they help others overcome their own haunted pasts.

I love this book for the straightforward way it addresses things like sexual assault and the identity crisis of a foreign adoptee. Despite difficulties, the teens find hope and strength as they serve others. The characters are well developed, engaging, and relatable in a variety of ways. Even with such heavy topics, this was a clean read that I could easily recommend to others.

ACS

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

I Am Still Alive

I Am Still Alive
By Kate Alice Marshall
Viking, 2018. 314 pgs. Young Adult

After a car crash takes her mother’s life, Jess bounces around in foster care until her father can be contacted and asked to pick her up. Jess hasn’t had any contact with him since she was young, so when she meets her dad in the middle-of-nowhere Canadian wilderness, she’s resentful and angry. Her dad tries to make the best of it, but he has his own reasons for living off the grid, and warns Jess that if she ever sees anyone out there she doesn’t recognize, to hide and stay away. When he’s murdered and Jess is left alone, she does everything she can to survive, not knowing if or when she’ll meet another friendly face.

The beginning of the book bounces between two time periods, before her father’s murder and after. Even with the nonlinear timeline Marshall’s pacing is excellent, making the story clear and suspenseful. All of the pieces gradually come together to show the whole picture of what Jess experienced as she prepares to cope with new predicaments, like the Canadian winter. She’s resourceful and smart, and really an interesting character. If you like stories of wilderness survival and revenge, this is definitely something to check out.

ACS

Figuring

Figuring 
by Maria Popova
Pantheon Books, 2019. 578 pages, Nonfiction

In Figuring, Popova introduces readers to a smattering of interconnected historical figures, from astronomers to sculptors, writers and poets to biologists, with varying degrees of notoriety. Instead of the standard format, describing their contributions to their fields or their life’s importance, she describes their work as their way to understand human connections that go beyond the confines and structures in place in society and describes their search to broaden their understanding of the ways poetry, art, science, and love all interconnect throughout our lives and to make meaningful interactions and experiences and shift the global consciousness.

Many, but not all, of the figures Popova profiles are women in the arts and sciences whose focus on unpopular ideas for their time, or themes such as feminism, religion and spirituality, and ideas like transcendentalism, intersected science, history, social issues and politics. Readers are introduced to the people included in this book through their own words, in their letters and correspondence with their loved ones and confidants for a unique, singularly intimate portrayal (some of my favorites included Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Emily Dickinson). This is a deeply moving and well researched book best enjoyed at a leisurely pace in order to really soak in the dense, somewhat academic concepts.

RC

Barely Missing Everything

Barely Missing Everything 
by Matt Mendez
Atheneum, 2019. 306 pages, Young Adult Fiction

Juan dreams of basketball stardom to lift himself and his struggling mother, Fabi, from poverty. His friend JD has similarly star-stuck aspirations and hopes to become a filmmaker, despite push back and pressure from his own home life threatening his success. When Fabi loses her job, forcing the pair to move back in with her father at the same time that Juan suffers an injury that puts his basketball career on hold, he discovers a startling fact about the man who may be his father and the course of his life takes an unexpected turn— one that leads JD to the perfect topic for his film.

What I liked most about this book was the underlying hope for a better life that each of the main characters believes in, despite the hardships they endure as Mexican-Americans in a time in this country when that fact adds turbulence. The book feels raw and real, the characters flawed and at times victims of circumstance doing their best to stay afloat, causing readers to feel their struggle viscerally. Not a light-hearted read, but an important one that I’d recommend to fans of YA books that take on social issues through story, like American Street, Mexican Whiteboy, or Long Way Down.

RC

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Uploaded

The Uploaded
Ferrett Steinmetz
Angry Robot, 2017, 445p, YA Science Fiction

In this book, the future has become a shell of the past. Generations of the dead now live out their lives as digital beings in an online game called the Upterlife. The living now exist solely to serve the dead, to take care of the Upterlife servers, mass produce the chips and computer boards needed to improve the Upterlife experience. Despite the living being ravaged by rebellion and plague, the dead seem content in their digital lives. For Amichai, the Upterlife represents both heaven and hell. His parents are there, and are so "busy" they don't take care of their kids. As Amichai allows his radical feelings towards the Upterlife grow within him, his unusual skills with tech and his flamboyant way of getting away with the impossible make him the center of a movement to stop the dead from ruling over the living.

Those who enjoyed Corey Doctorow's Little Brother and the Matrix movie trilogy, may enjoy this possibly predictive narrative of what happens when we can digitize the mind of a person completely. Content Advisory: While this book does fall in the YA category, the main character does have sex and the characters talk about sex frequently enough some readers (or their parents) might not be okay with it.

SMM

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Gingerbread

Gingerbread
by Helen Oyeyemi
New York, New York : Riverhead Books, [2019]. 258 Pages. Fiction.

Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children's stories--equal parts wholesome and uncanny, from the tantalizing witch's house in "Hansel and Gretel" to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can--beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.

Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there's the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it's very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (and, according to Wikipedia, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee's early youth. In fact, the world's truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet's charismatic childhood friend, Gretel Kercheval--a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.


I enjoyed this unique retelling of Hansel and Gretel. I listened to the audiobook using the Libby App, and I would highly recommend anyone interested in reading this book to do the same. The author, Helen Oyeyemi breathes magic into her words as she narrates her story. Her wording is descriptive and original and makes it easy for the reader/listener to become fully immersed in a strange, new world. The book also touched on real-world issues (feminism and race), which added a deeper element to this fairy tale

NS 


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Because I Was A Girl

Because I Was A Girl
by Melissa De La Cruz
Henry Holt & Company, 2017, 241 pages, Nonfiction

Pick up this gem - you won't regret it! It's a quick, easy, and inspiring read. It includes writings from a range of women and girls who are seen as pioneers and trailblazers in their field. Organized by decade, this book tells the stories of women and girls who went through unbelievable challenges simply because of their gender. The full page pictures and individual quotes add charm to this worthwhile piece of nonfiction.

The thing I liked best about this book was that it features women and girls that aren't what we might consider to be "traditionally" famous. From author Margaret Stohl to opera director Francesca Zambello, this book will inspire you to stick up for the women and girls in your own life. I was particularly inspired by the young girls in this book who tell their stories with a ferocity beyond their years. Support women!

LKA

Saturday, August 31, 2019

How to Make a French Family 
by Samantha Verant 
Sourcebooks, 2017. 336 pgs. Biography 


After finding her life in shambles from a recent divorce and job loss, Samantha decides after twenty years to apologize to the Frenchman she fell in love with and left standing on a train platform never to hear from her again. That apology changed her deepest regret and gave her and her Frenchman a second chance at love. But after the wedding is over and Sam is living in rural France with her new husband and two step-children, the reality of her sacrifice begins to set in over the newlywed bliss. Sam writes about her struggle becoming an insta-mom, an ex-patriot, and a new wife in this charming and entertaining food memoir. 

Samantha and Jean Luc's love story sucked me in right away. Sam's humor and honesty kept me reading. I was fascinated by Sam's experience as an ex-patriot, but more so I was inspired by her determination to herself and devotion to her new family. I also loved all the recipes sprinkled throughout the book. Each dish is mentioned in the narrative and had some significance to the story. I even did a quick google search and found a few recent pictures of the happy couple. If you're looking for an amazing heart-warming story, this true account is for you!

LH

Sky Without Stars

Sky Without Stars
by Hannah Capin
Ink Yard Press, 2019. 455 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

When the Last Days came, the System Divine promised hope and new worlds upon which to build. The planet of Laterre was settled by wealthy French families and their descendants, but 500 years later the poor are starving, an elite class reigns supreme, and it constantly rains. Whispers of a revolution led by a rebel group have started and hinges on three unlikely heroes: Chatine, a poor thief looking to escape the planet and her family; Marcellus, a military officer with an infamous traitor as a father; and Aloutte, a girl living in an underground refuge protecting the last library on the planet. All three have a role to play in the revolution, but which side will win and what costs will have to be paid? This sweeping reimagining of Les Misérables in a distant solar system is full of heartache and tender moments.

Just like Les Misérables, this book is a lengthy text with vivid descriptions and a host of characters. The plot was slow building and follows the basic story of Les Misérables, but focuses more on the three teenagers and less on the Jean Valjean character. The whole book is full of references and easter eggs of the original story with unique changes and futuristic technology. I would recommend this book to readers who love Les Misérables or enjoy rich detail and complex characters.

TT

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Lady in the Coppergate Tower

The Lady in the Coppergate Tower
By Nancy Campbell Allen
Shadow Mountain, 2019. 354 pgs. Romance

Hazel Hughes is a gifted healer who enjoys her time working with Dr. Sam MacInnes. She knows she is not his equal but is grateful for his friendship and the opportunity to spend time with him even though her heart wishes for more. Her life changes drastically when Dravor Pretescu, a Romanian count, finds her and tells her she is his niece and that she has a twin sister who is very sick and needs her help. Soon she is on her way to Romania. Sam doesn't trust the Count at all and refuses to let her go alone. The closer they get to Romania, the more sinister their trip becomes. Hazel starts to feel like she is going mad herself and is worried that they won't make it to her sister in time.

This fairty-tale retelling of Rapunzel was an entertaining mix of steampunk, horror, romance and mystery. This was the third book in Allen's steampunk series but each book could actually be read as a stand-alone. Hazel felt real and relatable and I liked how she and Sam were such good friends. The ending did seem a little rushed. After all of the build-up, I expected a little more and was surprised how quickly everything was resolved. I still recommend it for someone looking for a clean romance with a different twist.

AL

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Lady and the Highwayman

The Lady and the Highwayman
By Sarah M. Eden
Shadow Mountain, 2019. 344 pgs. Historical Romance

Elizabeth Black runs a girls school and brushes shoulders with the upper class. She must be prim and proper in order to have support for her school. In addition, she is a "silver-fork" author which means she writes literature for the upper class. She also secretly writes Penny Dreadfuls, which are cheap, sensational stories that would ruin her reputation if anyone ever found out. Fletcher Walker is also a Penny Dreadful author. He came from the streets, but has risen up in society. He uses his money from his writing to help fund the Dread Penny Society, which is a secret group that helps other children escape the hard life of the London streets. When a new mysterious Penny Dreadful author emerges, Fletcher is determined to discover who this Mr. King is and enlists the help of Elizabeth. They both have their own secrets to hide but feel drawn to each other anyway.

This novel by Sarah Eden felt different from her other books but I still really enjoyed it. Elizabeth and Fletcher are amazing characters. I liked how they worked their own experiences into their Penny Dreadful novels. I also liked that these two different Penny Dreadful novels were woven throughout the chapters of the book. It was like getting three books in one, which I wasn't sure would work at first, but it did. I hope this is the beginning of a new series because I would love to spend more time with these characters.

AL

Friday, August 23, 2019

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
by Ari Folman
Pantheon Books, 2018. 151 pages. Graphic Novel

Like many other children past and present, Anne Frank poured out her thoughts and feelings onto the pages of her diary. Addressing it as a friend, "Dear Kitty," soon became her most trusted confidante when Anne and her family, along with others, went into hiding from Nazi occupiers in World War II Amsterdam. "Dear Kitty's" pages hold Anne's deepest thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and detail her life in the "Secret Annex" until her capture.

The best-selling book is given the graphic novel treatment, with illustrator David Polonsky bringing Anne's spirit to life with reverent celebration. I read DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL as a teen, and felt kinship to her spunky personality. It's not for nothing her diary has captivated generations; her diary is a window into her world, once so happy and safe, suddenly plunged into darkness and danger, and to the millions of other innocents like her who suffered in the Holocaust. This graphic novel adaptation is a master work of capturing so much in comparatively so few illustrations - Anne's tumultuous relationship with her mother, the pangs of teenagehood, the crushing anxiety clashing with her fiery spirit - Polonsky has pulled off herculean feat in portraying it all.
Whether or not you've read the original, treat yourself with this adaptation.

MW 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy

Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy 
by Jamie C. Martin
Zondervan, 2019. 233 pgs. Nonfiction

Motherhood is wonderful, but it is also hard. When introverted mothers’ quiet nature collides with the loudness and chaos that comes with children, it often results in frustration and guilt and it’s easy to feel we’re just not cut out for the role. In Introverted Mom, author Jamie Martin in an uplifting and gentle way lets you know that you aren’t alone and offers strength and understanding. Jamie shares experiences from her own life as well as thoughts from other kindred-spirit moms, as well as offers practical suggestions and inspiration for thriving as an introverted mom.

I felt so understood by this book that I cried. These pages offer understanding, hope, and guidance for the challenges introverts face with motherhood, and I loved it all. It teaches how to honor your introvertedness without hiding behind it. I think this is an excellent read that I would highly recommend to any introverted mom out there.

 ER

Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can
by Frank W. Abagnale
Broadway Books, 2000. 277 pgs. Nonfiction

This book is advertised as "The True Story of a Real Fake" and it's just as fun as it sounds! Fans of the 2002 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks will enjoy reading an in-depth account of Frank Abagnale's adventures. In the late 1960s, he was one of the world's youngest and most sought-after con men. In his short criminal career, he impersonated a Pan Am pilot, worked for over a month as the supervising resident of a hospital, taught sociology as a college professor, and practiced law without a license. His specialty was forging and he cashed in over $2.5 million in fake checks before the age of twenty one! Abagnale is charming, quick-witted, and was able fool almost everyone he came into contact with. The reader feels like he always has good intentions, even though he's committing serious federal crimes!

I truly enjoyed this book; it is nonfiction but it reads like fiction! I was blown away by the things Abagnale was able to get away with. In today's digital age, he certainly wouldn't be able to do the same! This book is available in our digital library as well as in audiobook format. What makes his story even more fun is that Abagnale has now worked as a fraud consultant for the FBI for almost fifty years. He even owns his own financial fraud consultancy company!

LKA

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Through the Woods

Through the Woods
by Emily Carroll
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, [2014] 
©2014. Unpaged. Graphic Novel.

Canadian graphic artist Carroll uses familiar horror motifs--the first wife's ghost, the monster that dwells in the forest--to create fresh and disturbing tales.

This book is delightful spooky. The stories remind me of Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and the illustrations are quite chilling. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy suspense and horror, and especially to those who are eager for Halloween to be upon us. 

NS

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Mera: Tidebreaker


by Danielle Paige
DC Ink, 2019. 208 pgs. Young Adult Comics

Long before she was queen of Atlantis, Mera had to choose between following her heart or her mission to kill. In order to save her people, Mera feels that she must kill Arthur Curry (Aquaman) to end the Atlantean line of royalty. She ventures to the surface, where she encounters Arthur, but she quickly realizes that he is different than she expected. Could Arthur and Mera be the means of united their people or will they start of civil war that could destroy them all?

I am a huge superhero fan, and I absolutely loved this book. Mera has long been a strong, independent woman, but this story made her relatable and interesting. She experiences a range of teenage emotions and is able to think beyond the moment to evaluate her decisions. The illustrations are in different hues of blue, with Mera’s hair the focal point in red. The story and illustrations work together to create a complete story around Mera and Arthur. I would suggest this book to anyone who loves superheroes, strong female role models, or teenage romance.

TT

The Island of Sea Women

The Island of Sea Women
by Lisa See
Scribner, 2019. 374 pages, General Fiction

Mi-Ja and Young-sook grew up together on Jeju Island in Korea. When they came of age, they were both selected to become “baby divers” in the island’s all female diving collective, an esteemed and often dangerous role that some women of the matriarchal society use to support themselves and their families. The girls’ relationship and the diving collective changes over the decades, as they get married, succumb to their expected roles as women, and begin families of their own, and as Korea is shaken by Japanese colonization, WWII, and the Korean War. The world around them changes quickly, sometimes violently, and the strain of this threatens their livelihood, loved ones, and even their culture.

There is a lot to unpack in this book, and it’s quite a ride to do so. The impacts of such large, world altering events as seen through the experience of the people of a small Korean island is truly eye opening and at times heartbreaking. There’s also a lot in the book to warm the heart as, in true Lisa See style, the reader grows to feel connected to the characters and care about the relationships they’ve formed with one another. Fans of sprawling, character driven, historical fiction will find this book stays with them, even after they finish reading.    


RC

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Cover image for Evvie Drake starts over : a novel
Evvie Drake Starts Over
by Linda Holmes
Ballantine Books, 2019, 293 pages, General Fiction

Ever since her husband died, Evvie Drake lives alone in an overly large house in small-town Maine. While everyone in town thinks an inconsolable grief is what has stalled her momentum, Evvie lets them think that while she weighs her options.

Dean Tenney, a former major-league pitcher who lives in New York, is also stalled in life. He’s got a case of the “yips,” which means he suddenly can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why.

When Dean tries to get away from it all by renting Evvie’s mother-in-law apartment, he does so with the understanding that neither of them will ask about the other person’s problems. But the more Evvie and Dean get to know each other, the more they cross the boundaries they’d initially set up. As their friendship grows, Evvie and Dean encourage each other to face their fears and figure out what they really want in the next chapters of their lives.

Those who are familiar with Linda Holmes from the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour will hear her signature sense of humor in every line of this book. I frequently found myself laughing aloud as I read this. While this is a great light read, I also appreciated that the characters in this book had real depth, and they can’t really be together until they’ve both figured out things on their own. Those who enjoy authors like Abbi Waxman, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Rainbow Rowell will enjoy Evvie Drake Starts Over.

MB

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
by Abbi Waxman
Berkley, 2019. 332 pages, General Fiction

Nina Hill has a very simple and lovely life. She works in a bookstore, is an asset on her competitive trivia team, enjoys a carefully regimented schedule of exercise and socializing, and even sets aside specific time to read and do nothing with her cat. When the father she never knew she had dies, his lawyer contacts her about the reading of his will in which she is included. When he informs her that the brother and sisters who didn’t know she existed either are not happy about her encroaching on their inheritance, her simple life quickly becomes a lot more complicated.

As I read this book, I wanted to be Nina Hill, living simply and happily with her day planner and her furry friend, a mind full of trivia facts and a group of snarky, supportive friends and coworkers. While light, fluffy, romantic reads are not my go to genre, this one had enough sarcasm, wit, and sass to keep me turning the pages. This is a quick, delightful read with pop culture and literary reference abounding, a satisfyingly unpredictable turn of events, and laugh out loud moments that might make some readers blush. A fun jaunt into what it means to be family, and how you never really know what life will throw at you next.

RC

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Curse Words (Vol. 1): The Devil's Devil

Curse Words (Vol. 1): The Devil's Devil
Author: Charles Soule, Artist: Ryan Browne
Image Comics, 2017, 152p, Graphic Novel/Fantasy

In Curse Words (Vol. 1): The Devil's Devil, the magically-powerful main character Wizord, and his knowledgeable sidekick Margaret (who starts as a rat and then later gets transformed into a koala) spend their time protecting people on Earth while also giving people their deepest desires, for a fee. Wizord's magical power shoots him to fame, which is good until his past comes back to kill him. It turns out that Wizord's master, and ultimately the source of his magic, sent Wizord across multiple dimensions to Earth with the task of destroying Earth. But when Wizord discovers that everyone on Earth (New York as the setting) is free, he switches sides in order to live free of his god-master Sizzajee. Throughout the story, Wizord will lose his powers, get them back again, and rekindle a strong love from his past, doing it all without losing a single hair from his magical beard.

For those who like Saga series by Brian Vaughn, but wish there were more magical fights, Curse Words is for you.

SMM

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Wolf Pack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game

Wolf Pack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game 
by Abby Wambach
Celadon Books, 2019. 112 pages. Nonfiction.

Abby Wambach is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA World Cup Champion, and the highest all-time international goal scorer for male and female soccer players. She is a passionate activist for equal rights, equal pay, and for inclusion. During her career,she was often seen as an outspoken advocate for the equal pay of female soccer players; when she retired she took up the banner for all women, everywhere. This book is her philosophy on how women and men can come together to create wolf packs that honor difference and build unity for the human race.

Stemming from her viral 2018 commencement speech to Barnard College graduates, Wambach outlines the eight new rules that people everywhere can follow to become more empowered in their leadership and more supportive in their teamwork.

  1. You were always the wolf—create your own path 
  2. Be grateful and ambitious 
  3. Lead from the bench—from wherever you are 
  4. Make failure your fuel 
  5. Champion each other 
  6. Demand the ball—believe in yourself 
  7. Bring it all—lead with humanity, cultivate leaders 
  8. Find your pack—you’re not alone 

With each rule, Wambach tells a story from her life and illustrates how the rules need to change. This book is inspirational, passionate, and short. Each chapter can be read quickly and put down so you can think about the content. It’s a great book to read all at once and then savor again.

The only trouble with this book is it might be too short. For those who have seen the viral commencement speech, this is basically the transcript. It would be fascinating to hear more about each of the rules and how to practically put them into place. This book is part of a growing genre of books based on powerful commencement speeches. If you like it, you should try out Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art, Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life, or Lauren Graham’s In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems

by Robert Frost
New York : St. Martin's Griffin, [1979], c1969. 607 pages. Nonfiction.

The only comprehensive volume of Frost's verse available, comprising all 11 volumes of his poems, this collection has been the standard Frost compendium since its first publication in 1969.

The magic of Robert Frost's poetry is that it's simplistic nature opens the door for deeper thinking. The reader can make a personal connection by skimming the surface or by slowly dissecting the text. I found Frost's poetry (particularly the poems in fall and winter settings) to be quite a refreshing read during this hot summer season. I will note, however, that I believe this book will be best enjoyed if read with no time limit. This is not a book one would normally read cover to cover and finish in one sitting. I would recommend this book to nature lovers, those who love to write, and to both the novice and experienced poet enthusiast.

NS


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York
By Roz Chast
Bloomsbury, 2017. 176 pgs. Graphic Novel

Cartoonist Roz Chast takes a break from designing front page comic spreads of The New Yorker to create this guide to the city that stole her heart. A short but absolutely delightful read, Chast's book is divided into sections like "The Subway," "Food," and "Stuff to Do" to help readers get a feel for New York City as she sees it. As a guide, it is wildly informative and full of great advice; as a cartoon, it's hilarious and will make you laugh (if you're endowed with a good sense of humor of course).

I've loved Roz Chast for a long time--I've cited her in academic papers and read Theories of Everything dozens of times. Her cartoons are typically quirky observations of mundane everyday life: what silly thing the lady on the bus might be daydreaming about, which human objects are "proof of life on Earth," and what nature's budget might be for each season. Chast always feels like a friend who's not so much letting you in on an inside joke as creating one with you. But something about Going into Town feels even more personal and personable. Perhaps it's that it started out as a booklet for her daughter who was moving to the Big Apple for university. Perhaps it's that you can sense a real sincerity behind the words, a real love and optimism that sees the flaws and idiosyncrasies of her favorite city, and forgives and loves it all the more.

I'm moving to New York this week, and I'm both thrilled and terrified. I'm a creature of routine and I love having my things in place: my piano in the kitchen corner, my separate closets for shirts and dresses, my cats watching doves out the window or purring on my lap as I read from the stack of books on my nightstand, my friends a few streets and a text away. I am giving all these things up, and what scares me the most is the last one, being alone in the busiest city in America. But Chast's New York City is a friend itself, an enigmatic, volatile, fantastic figure that I can't wait to get to know over time. Seeing it through her eyes, in illustrated format and themed "chapters" make my upcoming move there feel less scary, more fun, and more full of discovery and possibility.

DMR

Monday, August 5, 2019

Daisies and Devotion

Daisies and Devotion
By Josi S. Kilpack
Shadow Mountain, 2019. 289 pgs. Historical Romance

Timothy Mayfield has a desire to marry for love but he does not stand to inherit and realizes that he needs to find a wife with wealth. He may have found the perfect person in Maryann Morrington. She may not be the most beautiful girl he knows, but he enjoys talking with her, she is the sister-in-law to his friend, and has a fortune that will pass to her husband. Everything changes when Timothy visits his uncle and discovers that he will be given land and a home in London if he can make a marriage match that the uncle approves of. Timothy is no longer forced to find a wealthy wife and proceeds to make a list of the qualities he wants in his spouse like blonde hair and a tinkling laugh.

Maryann knows that anyone showing interest in her is, most likely, only interested in her money. She is also fully aware that there are younger, prettier girls out there. It still hurts when Timothy comes back from his uncles and barely pays any attention to her. One of the things she has always liked about Timothy is that he is very honest in his intentions. When he shares his list with Maryann, she is wounded to realize she doesn't have one quality on it. They soon make a bargain to help each other find the perfect match but things don't go as smoothly as they would like.

This is a sequel to Promises and Primroses but it could be read alone. I really enjoyed this book from the very beginning. I like that Maryann was strong and realistic in her view of life. She was willing to have hope but also showed her vulnerability by being hurt. Timothy didn't always do things in the best way, but he has a kind heart and is so positive about life. I loved watching the two interact and evolve throughout the book. This is a clean romance that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

AL

The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers who brought the American Ideal West

Cover image for The pioneers : the heroic story of the settlers who brought the American ideal west
The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers who brought the American Ideal West
by David McCullough
Simon & Schuster, 2019, 331 pages, Nonfiction

As the Founding Fathers were settling the terms of the Treaty of Paris and busily creating the Constitution, others were already setting their sights on the possibilities offered in the West. This is the story of the first generation of one of the first pioneer settlements in Ohio, from its start in the late 1780s and through its evolution as an established community.

David McCullough is well known for the incredible amount of research he puts into his books, and that effort shows here. Relying on journal entries, letters, and other books written about the subject, McCullough paints a vivid picture of the lives of six of the prominent founding members of the town of Marietta, Ohio. Although this view of settling the West is rather narrow, it allows the reader to experience what it was really like to start completely over in a brand new place, and to see all the effort that goes into building a brand new community.

Those who enjoy detailed histories of a specific place like this one will also be interested in local histories. I especially recommend Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s House Full of Females, and even more locally, D. Robert Carter’s series of Provo history, starting with Founding Fort Utah.

MB

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Stranger


Stranger
by David Bergen
Harry N. Abrams, 2017. 272 pgs. General Fiction

Iso Perdido is a young Guatemalan woman who works at a fertility clinic, helping rich women "take the waters" of a local lake with the hope of becoming mothers. She is soft-spoken and gentle, fiercely strong, stands up for her convictions, and loves with her whole heart. Many of the visitors to the clinic are American and Iso falls in love with one visitor in particular: Dr. Mann, the American doctor in residence. Although he is married, Iso and Dr. Mann begin an affair. Suddenly, a motorcycle accident causes Dr. Mann to be sent back home to America and leaves a pregnant Iso in a sensitive predicament. After Iso's baby is born, she is kidnapped by the director of the clinic, who sends the baby to America to live with Dr. Mann in exchange for money. Determined to bring her daughter back home, Iso travels without documentation to America and embarks upon the most important adventure of her young life.

I picked this book up from one of our display shelves simply because the cover caught my eye. The woman's piercing stare in the cover photo and the one-word title made me stop and take a few steps back. It isn't the type of book that I usually read, but I'm so glad I gave this one a chance. I found myself rooting for Iso from the very beginning, despite the fact that I didn't agree with her choice to have an affair. She is clear-headed and determined, fiercely protective of her family, and willing to go to any lengths for her child. This novel will break your heart and then put it back together again.

LKA

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction
By Annalee Newitz
Doubleday, 2013. 305 pages. Nonfiction

In Earth's history, life on the planet has been seriously threatened with extinction at least half a dozen times.  In this book, Newitz considers how humanity would face similar threats should they occur in the future.  She examines how life on Earth has been threatened before, how human life has come through disasters in the past, and what scientific breakthroughs today could help us avoid serious harm in the future. 

From studying ancient underground cities, to cultivating cyanobacteria for energy use, to understanding how space elevators could make leaving the planet easier, Newitz leaves no stone unturned in this serious consideration of what innovations and principles will help ensure the survival of humanity.  This is a fascinating read that has something for everyone, but especially those interested in the sciences.

BHG

The Dead Queens Club


by Hannah Capin
Ink Yard Press, 2019. 455 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Annie Marck, alias Cleves, has just moved and must start her senior year at Lancaster High. But, when you are friends with the King himself, you instantly become teenage royalty. Henry is a jock, a genius, and brooding bad boy, which explains how he is on his sixth girlfriend in two years. But, when two of these “Queens” end up dead, is something else going on? Can Cleves and her girl gang find out what’s really happening to Henry’s queens before history repeats itself?

I could not believe how seamlessly the story of Henry VIII and his wives was re-imagined as Homecoming King and a teenage girl gang. Cleves is witty, strong, and fierce with a no nonsense attitude. Her one major stumbling block is her love for Henry, which blinds her to the truth for much too long. This story transformed Henry VIII and his wives into a tale that is easy to understand and digest for teenagers. High school gossip, relationships, and parties show just how petty Henry VIII was. There is some strong language, but I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys strong female characters taking down a bad guy.

TT

32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working the Line

32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working the Line
By Eric Ripert
Random House, 2016. 256 pages. Biography

World famous chef Eric Ripert recounts his heartbreaking childhood, the early foundations of his love for food, and his path from a trouble-making kid to line chef in one of Paris's most elite restaurants, where surviving the 17-hour work days and intense pressure was a refiner's fire.  Ripert's book unfortunately ends with his emigration to the United States, before he made a name for himself.  This is his coming-of-age story, perhaps, but readers may be left wanting to hear more about his work and success in the United States.  Ripert certainly had a complex childhood and endured many hardships, but the heart of the book was his love of food and his description of how his tastes and beliefs about food developed through the years.  Recommended for foodies.

BHG

Signed, Skye Harper

By Carol Lynch Williams
Paula Wiseman Books, 2014. 304 pages. Young Adult Fiction

The year is 1972 and 14-year-old Winston can't wait to watch her idol, Mark Spitz, swim in the upcoming olympics in Germany this summer. She lives with her grandmother, Nanny, and their dog, Thelma. She's never known her dad and her mom left her ten years earlier to move to Hollywood in hopes of making it big. And so far Winston has gotten along just fine without her mother. But then a letter arrives from her mom saying that things aren't going well and to "come get me." But California is a long way away from Winston's Florida home and Winston has no idea how she and Nanny will get there. Turns out, Nanny has a sneaky idea that just might get them across the country...

This book was such a fun read. I loved the relationship between Nanny, Winston, and Thelma. I also loved the writing style in this book. Each chapter was quite short, but still so full of emotion. I also loved the humor. Since Winston tells the story the reader gets to know her pretty well and her inner musings are oftentimes hilarious. Despite some of the more serious themes that litter this book, I consider it a light, quick read, but one that sticks with you long after you've turned the last page.

LH

Friday, July 26, 2019

Death Wins a Goldfish

Death Wins a Goldfish
by Brian Rea
Chronicle Books, 2019. 168 pages. Graphic Novel

Death never takes a day off. Until he gets a letter from the HR department insisting he use up his accrued vacation time, that is. Take a peek at Death's journal entries as he documents his mandatory sabbatical in the world of the living. From skydiving to online dating, Death is determined to try it all! DEATH WINS A GOLDFISH is an important reminder to the overstressed, overworked, and overwhelmed that everyone--even Death--deserves a break once in a while.

Two words: Utterly. Delightful. This is one of my favorite books of 2019. There's beauty to be found in every day, even if it's usually lost on us living folk. Like watching a child discover the world, watching Death try his hand at living life brings on all the feels - nostalgia, wonder, pride, vicarious excitement along with a contrasting note of melancholy. You'll be both charmed and gently reminded to take time and just live.

MW