Thursday, August 6, 2020
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Monday, August 3, 2020
By Erik Larson
Crown, 2020. 464 pgs. Nonfiction
Larson recounts Churchill's first days as prime minister and follows his life and the lives of his family during the worst of the Blitz in Britain. Not quite a complete view of WWII, this book describes the Royal Air Force and many air battles between Germany and Britain, but sometimes pivots to Churchill's home life, the dramas of his family members, or the efforts to raise America's help. At times, I felt that this book wasn't sure what it wanted to talk about. If you can accept that this will take a bit of a meandering view of this era of Churchill's life, you will find many fascinating stories and interesting glimpses of things you've never known about Britain during the Blitz. Erik Larson is known for weaving compelling nonfiction narratives, and this book is no exception. A recommended read for any who may be going through difficult times and who might be heartened by hearing how previous generations dealt with crises.
Saturday, August 1, 2020
by Christina Dalcher
Berkley, 2018. 326 pages. Sci-Fi
When the United States government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, it's only the beginning. Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. As a mother of four and a cognitive-linguistic scientist, Dr. Jean McClellan will reclaim that voice, fighting against the broken system she did nothing to correct as she saw it being installed.
This dystopian novel for adults obviously deals with sexism: citizens are denied rights based on their gender, and women are legally viewed as lesser than men. But it also shows a dark, possible future where the boundary between fundamentalist religion and government has been completely erased: the basis for this double-standard has roots in religious extremism. The fast pace makes this a quick read and a good thought-piece, although it's not without some strong language.
by Rani Shah
Dey St., 2020. 126 pages. Nonfiction
We could all learn a thing or two about living in balance from our friends in the plant and animal kingdom. Take, for example, the jellyfish, one of the most energy-efficient animals in the world, moving through the ocean by contracting and relaxing, with frequent breaks in between. We need look no farther than nature for small and simple things we can do to slow down, recharge, and living more thoughtfully, lovingly, and harmoniously.
This book was such a delight to read. Each chapter was short and to the point, making it a fast and easy read. Each animal or plant that the author highlighted has qualities that we all desire in order to become our best selves. Not only are you learning about how to improve yourself but you are also learning interesting facts about some of the animals and plants that inhabit our earth. Besides the jellyfish you will learn qualities from the porcupine, octopus, the sunflower, the vervet monkey, and the sloth, just to name a few of my favorites. This is one of my new favorite self-help books.
Friday, July 31, 2020
By Jennifer Donnelly
Scholastic Press, 2019. 352 pages. Young Adult
This is the story of Cinderella's stepsister Isabelle, who cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella's shoe. When her deception is discovered, Isabelle is cast aside in her shame, while Cinderella heads off for her happily ever after. But Isabelle's story is only just beginning. Isabelle's life has been one in which her lack of beauty cost her happiness and hampered her spirit, and she is far from perfect. But the literal embodiment of Chance is on her side, fighting to give her an edge over Fate. Armed not with a pumpkin-turned carriage and rags-turned-ballgown, but with gifts befitting her fire and bravery, it is up to Isabelle to save those she loves and snatch herself from Fate's grasp.
Isabelle is a flawed character who must overcome her own shortcomings as much as the cruel hand life has dealt her. She also must come to terms with the life expected of her as a woman in 18th-century France, and the life she dreams of, unfettered by any restriction. This story was so imaginative and unusual that I couldn't help but be pulled along. Recommended for fans of "fractured fairy tales" and those who want to cheer on the underdog.
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Monday, July 20, 2020
by Terry Tempest Williams
Sarah Crichton Books, 2012. 208 pages. Nonfiction.
When Diane Tempest was dying of breast cancer, she bequeathed her journals to her daughter Terry Tempest Williams. When Williams found the fifty-four volumes, she discovered that each and every one of them was blank. In fifty-four meditations on voice, Williams explores what it means to have a voice, especially for women. Is there more than just being a wife and a mother for women to write about? Why were her mother’s journals blank? What does that mean for Williams? In her lyrical style, made famous by her beloved classic Refuge, Williams comes to terms with her mother’s silence.
I could not put this book down. I was drawn in by the shock of those blank journals and the discussion of voice. For Williams, self-expression is always tied to the land, and this volume is true to form. I was deeply moved by the first-person narrative of how the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was formed because a small group of writers decided to fight for the land that they love.
This book will touch those who are interested in mother-daughter relationships, those interested in the discussion of voice, and those who are interested in environmental writing. With such variation in subject, there will be something to please every reader.
Friday, July 17, 2020
by Mike Chen
Mira, 2019, 326 pages, Science Fiction
When a mission goes wrong, time travel agent Kin Stewart finds himself stranded in the 1990s. Unsure of what else to do and suffering from amnesia, Kin decides to start over and eventually settles down with a job in computer security and a wonderful wife and daughter. When a fellow time travel agent finds him eighteen years later, Kin is shocked to discover that he belongs in 2142, and that he has a fiancée waiting for him there. Forced back into 2142, Kin must try to remember what his life was like before he left. But when Kin learns that his sudden disappearance has jeopardized his daughter’s life, Kin is determined to do whatever he can to fix the past.
While Chen writes science fiction, and the explanations of the rules of time travel seem solid, I think people will enjoy his books more for his skill in writing relationships and in character building. The ties Chen creates between fathers and daughters are especially well done. Kin’s drive to do whatever he can to save his daughter was heartwarming and urgent, and really made me root for him to succeed. The story starts out slowly as the different time periods and rules of time travel are explained, but the ending is a fast-paced action novel that had me at the edge of my seat.
Those who love character-driven time travel books like The Time Traveler’s Wife or How to Stop Time will enjoy Here and Now and Then.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
The Bromance Book Club
by Lyssa Kay Adams
Jove, 2019. 339 pgs. Romance
The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club. Professional baseball player Gavin Scott realizes that he has really messed up when his wife Thea asks for a divorce. He has been so busy with his career and their young twins that he hasn’t noticed how unhappy Thea is and how much of her life she has been faking it. He will do anything to win her back, including getting help from a secret romance-reading book club of Nashville’s top alpha men. With lots of mistakes and challenges along the way, will Gavin and Thea ever forgive each other and fall in love again?
I was initially draw to this book because I found the title so amusing, but the story and characters were so enjoyable and realistic that I couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for the next books in the series. The group of guys is diverse, funny, and not afraid to discuss emotions, toxic masculinity, and pumpkin spice lattes. They are also crude and competitive and egotistical. There are passages from the historical romance book scattered throughout, which was fun for fans of Regency romance. Gavin and Thea’s story develops so slowly that it feels realistic and you want them to succeed. There is strong language and mild sexual content, but this is a fun, contemporary read with likeable characters and a great bromance.
Monday, July 13, 2020
by Laura Lee Gulledge
Amulet Books, 2020. 180 pages. YA COMICS
Mona Starr feels all alone. Her best friend just moved to Hawaii and she finds it hard to make friends with other teens. Not only that, her depression has started to take over her life. She calls her depression her Matter, like Dark Matter. It colors all of her interactions with her family and other people at school. Through therapy, art, writing, and music, Mona is able to start to understand her Matter and learn how to manage it better.
This is a really important book. Not only does it address the physical and emotional sides of depression, but it shows them visually through pictures. As a visual learner myself, this book really helped me understand Mona’s experiences as a teen with deep depression. Mona’s Matter is shown as an inky black substance that follows and flows around her. Even though the topic is pretty heavy, the writing is crisp and hopeful. When Mona feels better about things her Matter turns into yellow stars.
As someone who manages depression and anxiety, I really wish that I had this book when I was younger. It really helps to give words to the feelings and physical symptoms of depression. It isn’t pedantic, the narrative is fun and fast paced. I was drawn in by the art and Mona’s sweet and quirky personality. This book is great for those managing depression and for those who have ever had to solve a big problem in their lives. It is super relatable.
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
by Tamora Pierce
Tempests and Slaughter centers on a young boy who wants very much to enjoy his time growing up without any notice whatsoever, but his unusual magic has other ideas. Following the adventures of young Arram and two misfit mages, Tamora Pierce builds a narrative of three unlikely friends whose bonds are strengthened by weathering the storm of secrets surrounding them.
I remember pulling books from Tamora Pierce off the shelves during middle school and her stories are still exciting to read, even so many years later. Tempests and Slaughter is a book that stands well on its own and is in good company with her other series. I am very much looking forward to rereading this until the next book comes out. Packed with action and surprises, I would recommend this book for any teen or adult reader craving fantasy and fun.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Harper Voyager, 2016. 443 pages. Science Fiction.
Desperate to leave Mars behind, Rosemary Harper takes a job on the aging ship, the Wayfarer. Rosemary signs on to be their clerk. And while her job is mundane, the crew is not. The crew of the Wayfarer, made up of four different species, four humans with backgrounds just as different as one species is from another, and an AI with a burgeoning sentience, punch holes in spacetime to make interplanetary and interstellar highways for small ships. When the captain takes on a job that will set up the future of his entire crew, what he doesn't know is that he is putting himself and his crew in between forces that have already drastically altered Rosemary's life as well as in the midst of a cultural war.
Offering a meditation on how families can be created through shared experiences and how different cultures can coexist despite their drastic differences, Chambers the space opera genre and gives it a core of family drama, filling a universe with characters that feel like real people. For people who want the action packed space operas like Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, but want a down-to-earth component that provides a breath of fresh air in between tense sections of the book.
Thursday, July 2, 2020
By Sarah Dessen
Balzer + Bray, 2019. 440 pages. Young Adult
With her father leaving the country and her summer plans falling through, Emma Saylor Payne is stuck with nowhere to go. She ends up at North Lake, staying the summer with the grandmother she hasn’t seen since her mother’s funeral. As she reconnects with old family and friends, Emma Saylor realizes that there was far more to her mother’s life than she previously realized, and that North Lake has some major socio-economic divides she was previously unaware of. Not only does Emma Saylor find a spirit of her mother about the place, but she also starts to rediscover parts of herself she forgot existed.
This was such a charming story of self-discovery and empathy. Emma Saylor starts with such a narrow view of her mother’s family, but as she hears other people’s stories, and learns more about her own story, she realizes her mother’s life wasn’t quite as black and white as she originally believed. The deep character growth is exactly what I want in a novel like this. The side characters are delightful, and the setting feels realistic. Overall a wonderful contemporary read I could easily recommend.
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2020. 517 pages. Young Adult
The Tenth Annual Hunger Games are about to begin, and Coriolanus Snow has been chosen as a mentor. A win in these Games could bring glory to the Snow name, which saw better days before the war; the family depends on the slim chance that Coriolanus's tribute outlasts the other twenty-three. But the odds are not in his favor: humiliatingly, he's been assigned the female tribute from destitute District 12. He'll soon see how intricately interwoven their fates are: both inside the arena in a fight to the death, and outside the arena as the desire to follow the rules competes with the necessity to survive.
This newest installment of the Hunger Games saga has received some heavy criticism since it's publishing earlier this year. It certainly has a more philosophical feel when compared to the previous plot-driven novels. It goes above and beyond the typical villain origin story, exploring morally grey areas and the importance of following the rules, rather than presenting the villain in as a sympathetic character. To be honest, I didn't read it as voraciously as the original trilogy because it wasn't as much of a thrill ride. But I don't think it's bad for a book to make you think as you read it.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
by Kara Cooney
National Geographic, 2018. 399 pages. Nonfiction.
Throughout history women seldom ruled, but in ancient Egypt women repeatedly reigned as the head of state. Egyptologist Kara Cooney examines this phenomenon of repeated female rulers over the course of Egypt’s long history, and delves into the cultural conditions that allowed for women to hold the highest position in the land. Through a close look at the lives of six female rulers, a fascinating story of the rise and fall of Egyptian dynasties unfolds.
One of this book’s main points is women rule differently than men. Author Kara Cooney really hits home on this point, and demonstrates these differences not only in the way women ruled Egypt, but also uses contemporary political figures. Cooney makes some interesting conclusions on the subject, and carefully backs her reasoning and assertions, while also acknowledging when her conclusions are controversial among Egyptologists. Overall it felt well researched and cited within the text and made for a fascinating read. I’d recommend for anyone interested in Egyptian history, women’s history, or just looking for an interesting nonfiction book.
Monday, June 29, 2020
Sara Raasch HarperCollins, 2014. 422 pages. Young Adult
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
This book was so much fun to read and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Meira is a fun, strong character to follow as she struggles with wanting to do anything for her fallen kingdom but also wanting to live her own life. The story is beautifully woven, leaving breadcrumbs that make you keep coming back. I loved the idea of 4 kingdoms that represent the 4 seasons and the type of people and commerce each season is known for, very creative. A very fun young adult read.
Friday, June 26, 2020
By Devon Young
Page Street, 2019. 192 pages. Nonfiction
For those looking to cook their way into better health, The Herbalist’s Healing Kitchen provides tips, tricks, and techniques for bringing healing herbs into recipes and menus. Every recipe is categorized by flavor profile (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and/or pungent), as well as by what type of healing each recipe promotes. With beautiful pictures and easy-to-access formatting, readers can skim for recipes or dive deeper into the theory behind flavor profiles, detoxification, and healthful cooking.
by Caitlin Doughty W.W. Norton & Company, 2019. 222 pages. Nonfiction.
If you are a mortician and a funeral director, you may get a lot of questions about death. Caitlin Doughty certainly does. But she never expected that the most interesting questions would come not from grieving adults, but from the curious minds of children. This book is a charming collection of Doughty’s hilarious answers to actual questions asked of her by tiny mortals. Will my cat (or dog) eat me if I die? What happens when someone dies on an airplane? Can I keep my friend’s skull as a keepsake?
This book is informative, slightly irreverent, and laugh-out-loud funny. Each chapter is short and easily digestible, so it makes for a great book on the go. Even though this is found in the adult nonfiction section, Caitlin Doughty wrote the book with children in mind, so I found it to be a great book to read aloud with my children. A fun and easy read that will give you a lot to talk about around the dinner table—or maybe you’ll want to talk about it somewhere else.
Thursday, June 25, 2020
By Sarah M. Eden
Mirror Press, 2020. 296 pgs. Historical Romance
The newest book in the Hope Springs series tells the story of Patrick O'Connor. He is the brother everyone believed died in the battle of Gettysburg ten years ago. He has his reasons for not telling his family that he actually survived the battle, while his brother Grady did not. He has suffered years of loneliness and grief and a demon that is too big for him to battle alone. In a moment of deep darkness he decides to reunite with his family in Hope Springs, WY.
Eliza Porter is a young widow who is also traveling to Hope Springs with her young daughter in the hopes of finding a better life than she had as a factory worker in New York City. Eliza and Patrick have an instant connection, even though Patrick tries to push everyone away. Their journey has lighter moments, but they have to travel some dark roads for Patrick to find healing and hope.
I love the O'Connor family! This is the fifth book in the series and, while each book focuses on a different family member, the characters you come to know and love from previous books play into the newest story line. This romance isn't all fluff and good feelings. There are real struggles and darker plot lines but it makes the good times so much sweeter.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
By Adrienne Young
Wednesday Books, 2019. 327 pages. Young Adult
When she’s just a young girl, Tova is found washed ashore by the Svell. Now at 18, memories of her own clan have long since faded, but prolific tattoos mark her as a Truthtongue, someone who can cast the ruin stones and divine the future. Although the Svell fear her, they also realize they can use her abilities to their advantage. With a clan war looming, the Svell think Tova will foresee their victory, but interpreting the future isn’t quite as straightforward, or as promising, as the Svell want to believe. Faced with a choice between life and honor, Tova’s decision will have dramatic consequences for both clans.
Though Tova was raised by the Svell, the constant prejudice she faces weighs her down. She’s been subservient for so long that her own life and personality have been stifled, and as a character she struggles to become her own person. The story’s perspective changes between Tova and Halvard, the young leader of the Nadhir. The paths of both characters cross in strange ways, and the war between their people is gruesome. Still, both characters rise up to discover their own place in the world. This is an interesting historical fantasy with the feel of a Viking world. This is technically a companion novel to Sky in the Deep, but it’s not necessary to read one before the other. They work well as stand alones.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Lion Forge, 2019. 256 pages. Young Adult Graphic Novel.
Nova (she/her) is not your ordinary teen. She is a witch, well, she’s in training. She helps out at her grandmothers’ store where they lend out magic books and generally monitor their New England town for any supernatural occurrences.
One night, Nova walks by the woods and stumbles on a werewolf fighting a ghost horse. Not only that, but when the wolf changes, it turns out to be Nova’s best friend from childhood, Tam (they/them). Nova, her grandmothers, the neighbors, and even their cat set out to find out why the ghost horse is following Tam. But will what’s coming for Tam come for them all?
Nova Huang is a young female protagonist I can love unabashedly. She is strong, empowered (quite literally), and kind. She does not seek out adventures, they come to her because she is helping people who are already in trouble. She is unafraid of figuring out what is going on with Tam, but also gives Tam space and asks for permission before she discusses Tam’s life with anyone. There need to be more people like Nova Huang.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
By Alix E. Harrow
Redhook Books, 2019, 374 pages, Historical/Fantasy Fiction
In the early 1900s, January Scaller, a biracial teenager, isn’t sure where she belongs. Her mother died when she was a baby, and her father travels the world, acquiring precious artifacts for Mr. Locke, a wealthy man whose hobby is collecting rare treasures from around the world. January spends her days in a corner of Mr. Locke’s house, mostly forgotten. When her father goes missing, January is devastated, and she only finds solace in a book called The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which contains a tale of love and travel between worlds that’s hard to believe. Despite Mr. Locke’s active disapproval, January becomes determined to find out what happened to her father, which leads her on an adventure she would have never had the courage to embark on before.
This book is a perfect blend of historical fiction, magical realism, fantasy, adventure, and romance. (A bit like the beloved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, although that book is more obviously a fantasy novel than The Ten Thousand Doors is.) I read this book at the same time as I read Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea, and I was surprised at how similar these two books were, although The Starless Sea has a contemporary setting. Both books are about people who find solace in reading, and then discover secret worlds behind ordinary doorways and go on to have amazing adventures. Both books also tell multiple stories, switching between the adventures of the main character, and the story that the main character is currently reading. The setting and writing style of The Ten Thousand Doors makes this book feel more like literary fiction than The Starless Sea, which has more of a modern vibe. I unreservedly loved both books, and highly recommend them both.
Monday, June 1, 2020
by Jasmine Guillory
Jove, 2018. 325 pages. Romance
A Dodgers game becomes extremely awkward for freelance writer Nikole Paterson where her actor boyfriend proposes unexpectedly. Of course she says no: he didn't even spell her name right on the Jumbotron. But dealing with a stadium of disappointed fans is more overwhelming than it would seem. Just in the nick of time, handsome stranger Carlos Ibarra and his sister show up, pretending to be Nik's friends, and whisk her away from the camera crew. Carlos and Nik's friendship withstands the social media backlash of the failed proposal, and knowing that Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, Nik starts a fun rebound relationship with him. But as it evolves into something more, they have to learn where to draw the line.
One of my favorite aspects about this NY Times Bestseller was how there wasn't much plot to get mixed up in. That might sound like a negative, but the overall story mostly follows Carlos and Nik's relationship, and they're so cute together that it's hard to get upset about it. The diverse cast of characters is likable and memorable (even minor ones), not to mention realistic. If you're a fan of modern romance, this one's perfect for you.
For those that like Ken Liu's Grace of Kings and N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy, this book starts a strong fantasy trilogy that does not shy away from showing the horrors of war.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
Black Balloon Publishing, 2019. 194 pages. Nonfiction
Growing pains, loss, healing, homecoming—food can play a major role in each phase of our journey through life. Food can be full of memories, can help us cope with the loss of a parent, heartache, and loneliness. In this collection of short stories, beloved authors and writers share their experiences (and recipes!) of food and how it helped them through difficult times in life.
This is a great read for anyone that has a special emotional connection to food. The book is split into four parts—growing pains, loss, healing, and homecoming—and each short story focuses on those themes. The stories are autobiographical, and are short enough to be easily digestible for when you just have a few minutes to sneak some reading in. My favorite part is the inclusion of recipes at the end of each story. Lev Grossman’s after-divorce General Tso’s Tofu is as delightfully delicious as his story is painfully hilarious. And Chantel Acevedo’s nostalgic story about her abuela’s merenquitos will fill you with longing for a quiet moment with a sweet treat.
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
by Nicholas Eames
Orbit, 2017. 529 pages. Fantasy.
In one of the most unique recent twists on the adventuring fantasy genre, Kings of the Wyld follows a band of adventurers who have retired from the hero life. Clay "Slow-hand" Cooper has retired to a tiny village and works as a guard to support his wife and daughter. Then one of Clay's former band companions, Gabe, shows up asking for help with an impossible task--to infiltrate a city besieged by an army of monsters to save his daughter Rose. What ensues is an amazing adventure of washed out heroes completing impossible task after impossible task, losing limbs, saving the known world, and finding the cure of an incurable disease, all while they begrudgingly deal with the fact that they aren't as young as they used to be. If anything, Clay learns that being a hero is more about the friends you have, not being afraid to take risks, and a whole lot of luck.
Eames injects a huge dose of humor into his absurdist fantasy story (a la Terry Pratchet) while grounding it in a very relatable situation--a father doing everthing he can to save his daughter. For readers who liked The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and Terry Pratchett's Discworld, this book is a must read.
Monday, May 18, 2020
by Colson Whitehead
Doubleday, 2019, 213 pages, Literary/Historical Fiction
Elwood Curtis is a black, straight-A student who lives in Harlem in the 1960s and loves the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When an innocent mistake sentences Elwood to the Nickel Academy, a Florida reform school, he quickly learns to rely on a fellow inmate named Turner to learn how to survive in this new environment. It turns out the Nickel Academy isn’t a reform school; it’s a den of horrors, where the staff beat and abuse the students, corrupt officials steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to never be heard from again. This is the story of how Elwood and Turner learn to cope with their experience in the Nickel Academy, and how it affects the rest of their lives.
The Nickel Boys is a devastating work of fiction that was hard to read at times, but I couldn’t put it down. Part of this is because of the book’s roots in actual history (the Nickel Academy is based on a real school in Florida called the Dozier School for Boys), and part of it is because the characters are incredibly complex and you can’t help but root for them. Elwood has such pure motives, and he always tries to believe the best of people, but time and time again he is disappointed. Turner is much more cynical, and it’s his real-talk that helps Elwood learn to survive in a horrible place, while Elwood’s hopeful spirit possibly allows Turner to move on from the horrors of the Academy once he leaves.
Colson Whitehead recently became the fourth person in history to earn not one, but two Pulitzer Prizes, the second being for this book. This accomplishment is very well earned. This is an important book that’s not to be missed.
Friday, May 8, 2020
By Ally Carter
Scholastic Press, 2018. 293 pages. Young Adult
Maddie Manchester thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president's son, sometimes life has other plans. After her father was wounded in an attempted kidnapping, the pair moved to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness with no phone and no Internet. And not a single word from Logan. Maddie tells herself it's okay and starts to move on, until Logan shows up six years later... and Maddie wants to kill him. But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back and get help. But the weather is turning, and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly. Maddie still really wants to kill Logan. But she has to save him first.
In some novels for young adults, the romantic elements feel clunky and artificial. But this winner of the 2020 Beehive Book Award certainly is not one of them. The chemistry between Maddie and Logan is believable (teen awkwardness and all), and it helps to lighten up this complex story of loss and revenge. As they begin to heal old wounds, the two friends find real, healthy connection. Beyond the romance, Carter strikes a careful balance of action and angst. Get ready for a fun, quick-paced thriller with a witty, capable heroine and some dark twists.
Monday, May 4, 2020
Penguin Group USA, 2012. 340 pgs. Biography
Young Jenny is a trained nurse who unknowingly chooses a convent to complete her midwifery training in the 1950s. In the slums of the East End of London, Jenny trains with the Sisters, delivering babies in all sorts of conditions at all times of day or night. She learns to respect the Sisters and not to judge the poor she serves so quickly. Join in her journey as she meets a colorful cast of women from all walks of life from the warm-hearted nuns, to a young girl caught in prostitution, to a woman who doesn’t speak English and is pregnant with her 24th child.
This biography is also a social history of living conditions during post-war slums of London, especially concerning childbirth. It’s written in a narrative style, with each chapter focusing on a different patient. I listened to it and I enjoyed the narration, so the audiobook gets a thumbs up from me! Anyone interested in medical history, social history, midwifery, post-war England, or the television series Call the Midwife would enjoy this book.
Thursday, April 30, 2020
by Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books, 2018. 311 pages. Young Adult
Sadie is used to taking care of things herself. Even before their mom left, Sadie was more a mother than a sister to Mattie. She never minded despite the sacrifice; Mattie has been her whole world since she was born. And that world is shattered when Mattie is found murdered. Months later, the case already gone cold, Sadie decides to take care of things again. Like always.
West McCray remembers hearing about Mattie's murder while traveling doing research for his radio show. To his surprise, nearly a year later he's contacted by a family friend of Sadie and Mattie, pleading for help. For Sadie. She's been missing for months, her car apparently abandoned. Reluctant at first, West soon becomes obsessed with finding Sadie, starting a new podcast to track his investigation of Sadie's journey, desperate to find her before it's too late.
Read this book. Just do it. Better yet, listen to the audiobook, which makes the podcast chapters (West's perspective) really come to life! There's theme music, and sound effects like sound quality of recorded phone calls and crickets chirping in the background of an outdoor, nighttime interview. Alternating between West's chapters/podcast and Sadie's perspective, this story is a brilliant melding of grief, hardship, mystery, and thriller. Sadie is a wonderfully developed protagonist, and really so is every other character. I've never heard/read anything quite like this before. This story feels so real; as a podcast and true crime fan myself, this book felt exactly like listening to podcasts like Serial. SADIE is masterful storytelling done in such a clever and compelling way. I can't stop thinking or talking about this book! Fellow podcast fans, particularly my fellow true crime fans, will eat this up.
By Nathan Pyle
Wm Morrow Gift, 2019. 144 pages. Graphic Novel
Based on the popular Instagram, Strange Planet, Pyle has published many of his most popular comics, and some that have never been seen, into this adorable and hilarious collection. On a planet not wholly unlike our own, these strange beings live out their lives in short and often hilarious vignettes about family, life, pets, and work among others.
These simple comics in pink, blue, green, and purple are so sweet and enjoyable that it’s hard to put down. Something as simple as telling a child “sweet dreams” has become “imagine pleasant nonsense,” and playing pick-a-boo becomes a game of “have I ceased to exist? Deception! I have not!” Whether the beings are watching a sports game (“catch the orb!”) or celebrating a birthday (emergence day) these wholesome and creatively interpreted comics based on real life situations will bring a smile to your face.
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
By Glennon Doyle
The Dial Press, 2020. 352 pages. Nonfiction.
In her third memoir, Untamed, Glennon Doyle discusses what it is like to go from tamed and small, to untamed and free to be herself. With topics ranging from raising children, becoming disenchanted with Christianity, falling in love, and being confronted with her own racial privilege, Doyle explores the many kinds of social conditioning that women go through in their lives. Though her life has changed drastically since her first memoir, Carry On, Warrior, Doyle’s open and insightful style of writing hasn’t.
I have been a fan of Doyle’s for many years, and have really enjoyed reading her three memoirs. She is brutally honest and yet intensely empathetic in her discussion of what she sees as the shortcomings of society and the world in general. And in true Glennon-style, she does not exempt herself from these critiques. I think the biggest take-away from the latest installment is that we may not know that the life we have been socialized to accept is not the only option that we have. Doyle shows great courage in outlining her new life and new truths in this complex and inspiring read.
Saturday, April 18, 2020
by Gene Luen Yang
First Second, 2020. 445 pgs. Young Adult Comics
Gene is an artist and understands stories, so when he hears about the boys’ varsity basketball team at the high school where he teaches, he knows that this is his next story to tell. But, he doesn’t know anything about basketball. The varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that is decades in the making. Each win brings them closer to the California State Championships, but as Gene gets to know the individual players, he realizes that their stories are just as thrilling as any comic book. He knows that he must follow this story to its end, but he doesn’t realize that it will change the lives of Dragons and his own.
This comic book was as exciting, exhilarating, and hopeful as any adventure or superhero comic. There were funny, laugh-out-loud moments, especially from Yang’s wife. I felt a deep connection to a number of the players, and appreciated that Yang provided stories for most of the varsity players, not just the stars, as well as controversial topics regarding the team. The illustrations are colorful, fun, and give life to the story of the Dragons. While I personally enjoy basketball stories, this would be a great read for anyone who enjoys stories about overcoming adversity, sports, or graphic nonfiction.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
by Courtney Alameda
HarperTeen, 2020. 376 pages. Young Adult
Kira Fujikawa is not your typical High School student living in Kyoto. She is a shrine maiden who can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Japan. Her life turns upside down when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon and bring darkness to the world. Needing help to find the monsters, she enlists seven powerful death gods to aid her.
This is a fun and clean YA fantasy book that reads almost like a manga or anime. The story is fast paced and engaging, capturing the reader's attention and keeping it through the whole book. Kira is a strong and brave female protagonist but can also be unsure of herself, especially as she faces problems beyond her talents and knowledge. Luckily she has a variety of death gods to help her through the biggest threat she has ever known and as she learns from them she slowly gains more confidence in herself.
Monday, April 13, 2020
By Marianne Monson
Shadow Mountain, 2020, 357 pages, Historical Fiction
This fictionalized version of the true life story of Martha Hughes Cannon shows just what an impressive and talented person the first female state senator was. She was a trained orator, she was a doctor, she ran a nursing training school, she promoted the suffragist cause, and as a politician, she devoted herself to improving the public health systems throughout the fledgling state of Utah.
Martha, or Mattie, also met with some interesting challenges. As the plural wife of a church leader around the time of the manifesto, she struggled with the fact that the man she loved had other families and commitments. And after the manifesto, she struggled with the inability to claim her husband as her own in public.
After reading this novel, I really wish I could sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with this fascinating woman. Monson paints Cannon as a woman who struggled with frustrations and doubts, but she didn’t let her limitations stop her from speaking out for women and the impoverished, even when those who had authority didn’t agree with her views. I was left wanting to know more about the life of Martha Hughes Cannon, but the glimpse I got gave interesting insights into what it was really like to live in Utah around the turn of the 20th century. I'm grateful that pioneers like Martha Hughes Cannon helped blaze the trail to help make Utah what it is today.
Monson also mentions Martha Hughes Cannon in her excellent nonfiction book about women in the west, Frontier Grit.
Friday, April 10, 2020
by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House Publishers, 2019. 358 pgs. Historical Romance
Abigail Kemp is determined to not lose her family’s bakery. The city council tells her that she must have a man’s name on her deed or she will have to close down, so she decides she’ll have to ask a man to marry her but convince him that she still gets to run the bakery the way she wants. Zach has had a rough past but is trying his best to do what is right and has no intention of getting married and settling down. He is shocked when Abigail proposes to him but he can’t resist a damsel in distress.
This book was so much fun to read. Abigail doesn’t think much of herself and can’t believe that anyone would be attracted to her because she is plump and plain. Zach is rough around the edges and puts on a tough front but he has a heart of gold. I loved watching their relationship grow. Karen Witemeyer is a great author. She has great historical details, perfect romances and lots of laugh-out-loud moments. She also has just the right amount of religion so that it doesn’t feel overbearing.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
By Roseanna M. White
Bethany House, 2015. 439 pgs. Inspirational Fiction
Brook Eden has never known where she really fits in. She was raised by an opera singer in Monaco and many people think her the illegitimate daughter of the Prince. As she gets older she decides to find the truth. Justin, a long-time English friend, agrees to help her search for answers. It soon appears that she may be the lost daughter of an Englishman and heiress to a fortune. Brooke goes to England to meet a family she has never known. Everything seems to be falling into place. Soon some disturbing stories begin to surface and Brooke is in a race to find out why her real mother was killed as she was fleeing for her life on a dark and stormy night before Brook's life is threatened too.
This novel has a little bit of everything: romance, mystery, adventure, and religion. Brooke is a strong heroine who doesn't sit back and wait for life to happen. She knows how to shoot a gun, drive a car, and break unbreakable horses which are all things that women of her time shouldn't do. Justin is more thoughtful and cautious. They help to balance each other out when they aren't driving each other crazy. I liked that this historical fiction novel had a layer of mystery to carry the story along. This novel would be good for fans of Sarah Eden or Julianne Donaldson.
By Tim James
Abrams Press, 2019. 216 pages. Nonfiction.
Our universe was formed 13.8 billion years ago. As the unorganized soup of particles cooled after the Big Bang, the elements were born. James recounts the history of the elements, from the ancient Greeks to the contemporary scientists who have created new elements in labs to complete the table.
This light-hearted book is nothing like the boring chemistry class you slept through in high school. Telling the story of the elements, James uses facts to answer questions like:
- What is the chemical formula for a human being?
- How many bananas can you eat before you die of radiation poisoning?
- How did the medieval dream of turning lead into gold become a modern reality?
I found this to be a refreshing history and outline of chemistry, covering a broad range of topics in a fun and interesting way. Unlike other books about hard science, Elemental is very accessible and doesn't get weighed down with confusing jargon or mathematical details. Without reservation, this is the most delightful book I've read about chemistry in several years. Even if you have zero background in science, this book will make for an entertaining exploration of the building blocks of the universe, without even leaving your home.
Monday, March 30, 2020
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 175 pgs. Graphic Novel.
Odyr, a Brazilian graphic novelist, brings to life the events of George Orwell's Animal Farm with page after page of gorgeous surrealist-esque images. Odyr took Orwell's vision of a parable fable and gets across in images the truly bloody results of communism and trusting societal powers too much. On a farm in England, a pig named Major has a dream, a dream that tells him of the farm animal's oppressed state, of the fact that they are slaves. Once major dies, his dream becomes the prophetic backing for a new movement called Animalism, where those with two legs are the enemy, those with four legs or wings are friends, all animals are equal, and animals should not wear clothes, drink alcohol, sleep in a bed, or kill another animal. An opportunity arises, and the animals rebel, taking over the farm. With the power in hand, the animals set out to make a world where their animalism values are honored, and in the process trade one oppressive leader for another.
For those who like the classics like Ray Bradbury's Faranheit 451 and Orwell's 1984, but want to experience a classic in a different way, this book is for you. The graphic novel edition also does a great job of giving you some emotional distance from the characters so you can really see and understand what Orwell was trying to say about the political philosophies that gave rise to the Soviet Union.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
by Tanis Gray
Insight Editions, 2020. 207 pgs. Nonfiction
In this first official Harry Potter knitting pattern book, there are over 25 beautiful patterns based on the iconic books. Projects are divided into four sections: crafty creatures, wizarding wardrobe, inspiring apparel, and delightful décor. In addition to the patterns, there are photos and behind-the-scenes information from the Potter films in full color. From House scarves to subtle patterns and motifs, there is something for every Potter fan.
As an avid Potter collector, I absolutely love this book. I am not a knitter, but these patterns make me want to learn. My favorite patterns are the most subtle ones, like the “Owl Post Pullover” or the “Deathly Hallows Lace-Knit Beaded Shawl.” The colors and photographs are beautiful for each project and evoke the magic and wonder of the Potter world. There are projects for all skill levels, but it does not have a beginners’ guide, so a basic knowledge of knitting is needed. This is perfect for knitters or Harry Potter lovers and simply beautiful to browse through.
By Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal
Crown, 2019. 326 pages.
The small town of Bleak Creek takes pride in it’s city BBQs, its conservative values, and its highly successful reform school for troubled youth. Rex and Leif just want to spend their summer making their home-movie masterpiece, Polterdog, with their friend Alicia. But when a scene in their movie goes horribly wrong, Alicia is sent to the Whitewood School, and the teens soon realize that there is something sinister boiling under the surface of their small town’s sleepy façade.
You know you have a winning book when it gives you the same feelings of nostalgia and horror as the hit show Stranger Things. The characters are endearing, and the plot is well-paced and full of enough easy humor to balance out the supernatural creepiness. If you enjoy tales of the supernatural, spunky adolescent heroes, or if you are fans of the authors’ award-winning web series, this is a must-read!
If you want to read more about the authors, check out their semi-biographical guide to creativity and tomfoolery here.