Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go

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

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

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


Friday, October 19, 2018

At the Pulpit : 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women

At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women
by Kate Holbrook, Jennifer Reeder
Salt Lake City : The Church Historian's Press, [2017]. 452 pages. Nonfiction.

At the Pulpit showcases the tradition of Latter-day Saint women's preaching and instruction by presenting 54 speeches given from 1831 to 2016, with selections from every decade since the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The discourses, given by women both well known and obscure, represent just some of the many contributions of women to Latter-day Saint thought. In addition to being a scholarly history, At the Pulpit is intended as a resource for contemporary Latter-day Saints as they study, speak, teach, and lead. These discourses allow readers to hear the historical and contemporary voices of Latter-day Saint women--voices that resound with experience, wisdom, and authority. 

This book celebrates the strength and intelligence of women who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I greatly appreciated the fact that each discourse begins with biographical and historical context. Doing so brings a more personal touch to the book and gives the reader a greater understanding of the significance of the contribution these women made to the Church during their time period. I would recommend this book to those seeking inspiration and those who seek to relate to others who have had similar trials and challenges in their lives. This book is also a great reference tool for those interested in the history of the Church. 


Meet Me at the Museum

Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson
New York : Flatiron Books, [2018]. 272 pages. Fiction
When the curator of a Danish museum responds to a query about ancient exhibits, he doesn’t expect a reply.

When Tina Hopgood first wrote it, nor did she …

Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. He does not know that a query from a Mrs Tina Hopgood about a world-famous antiquity in his museum is about to alter the course of his life.
As each letter is exchanged, the reader receives an increasingly intimate view of the budding relationship between two strangers who bond over loss and love. Intimacy, in this case, makes for a slow-paced read due to the focus on the subtle changes in growth between characters Anders and Tina. This is not a book that will launch the reader into page-turning insanity, but is instead the kind of book meant to provoke self-reflection with the revealing of each life-lesson. 
I selfishly wish the museum played a larger role in the book. The Tollund Man (Silkeborg Museum) provides the spark to Anders' and Tina's relationship, seemingly disappears after the first few letters, and plays a non-consequential role at the end. Even so, this book is a charming and gentle read that is sure the warm even the coldest of hearts. I also recommend listening to the audio book version, as it adds dimension to the characters of the book. 


Monday, October 15, 2018

The 5 Second Rule

The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence With Everday Courage
By Mel Robbins
Savio Republic, 2017, 238 pgs. Nonfiction

Mel Robbins explains in this book how we rarely ever feel like doing something. The important thing is to learn how to still do it, even when we don't feel like it. Her simple solution is to count down from 5-1 and as soon as you get to one, take action. An example of this, and often the easiest place to start, is with waking up in the morning. Decide the night before what time you will wake up in the morning, and when your alarm goes off, count down from 5 to one, and get out of bed. Don't hit snooze and don't count down again. Just get up! This will set the tone for the whole day. She also explains why this concept works and how it has helped her and many other people with motivation, anxiety, depression and health.

The concept in this book is life changing. I have already been using the 5 Second Rule and noticed huge changes in my daily life. It's the little moments of everyday courage that help us make huge strides forward. I also really liked her explanation of anxiety. It was put in a way that made sense and helped me to understand what happens in our brain. That being said, the book itself is not very good. It is very repetitive and felt more like they were taking a very simple concept and trying to stretch it into a book that they could sell. The author spent a lot of time explaining what fans of the 5 Second Rule said on social media, then having the actual post, and then restating what they said. I would recommend watching the author's TED talk instead of spending time reading the book.


The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told 
by Megan Mullally & Nick Offerman
Dutton, 2018, 273 pages, Nonfiction

Some celebrity couples are major “relationship goals”, and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly seem to be one of these. In their new book, they share their life stories, tell about their courtship, and share insights they’ve garnered in their 18+ years of making love last. The book is written in a conversational style and most chapters are formatted like a script, which makes it a quick read that brings you intimately into the discussion and makes it feel like you're sitting down to chat with a pair of old pals- who happen to be really famous.

I’ll admit I wanted more from this book. I wanted the pair to reveal all the secrets to achieving an ideal relationship, built on laughter and a shared love of character acting and puzzles. While entertaining, this book felt less like a story of their love, and more like a very selective biography of each of their pasts and careers, with little quips about their lives together mixed in for good measure. None the less, it’s a must read for fans of either, or both, of these beloved actors. The audiobook is especially enjoyable as it is read by the authors and is filled with giggles and asides that charm and warm the heart, and some that would cause even a sailor to blush.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Press, 2016. 400 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Anything can happen over the summer and in this book, 12 best-selling young adult authors give their take on summertime romance. The stories range in genre from contemporary to fantasy to horror and more. Along with summer love, characters navigate tough issues such as broken families, life after high school, and figuring out who they are.

This book is great for anyone who loves a good summer romance story since you have 12 to choose from. Even if you’re not looking to read all 12 stories, with such a wide range of subgenres, there’s definitely one in here to suit your mood. This book is marketed as being “love stories” so that makes things a little more predictable plot-wise—the main character and the love interest WILL get together—but that still doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of it happening. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of one (or more) of the authors included, or to anyone who wants to spend half an hour reading a story with a guaranteed happy ending.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Whiskey In a Teacup

Whiskey In a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits
By Reese Witherspoon
Simon & Schuster, 2018, 304 pages, Nonfiction

In this chatty memoir/recipe book, Reese Witherspoon shares what it was like growing up in The South, particularly the influence of her grandmother Dorothea. Reese talks about the magic of sweet tea on the front porch, catching fireflies, and decorating for the holidays. Her glowing descriptions of the wisdom of her mother and grandmothers evokes a time when things were slower and people looked each other in the eye. At the end of each chapter, she shares family recipes and lists of books and music that can bring the charm and tradition of Tennessee to your home.

I loved this book. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but Reese Witherspoon writes with charm and candor about her upbringing and the power of family. It was really interesting to see into her life outside of her movies. Definitely a fun read for the upcoming holidays.



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Passing For Human

Passingfor Human
by Liana Finck
Random House, 2018, 222 pages, Graphic Novel.

Cartoonist Liana Finck explores her own history and coming of age in graphic novel format in this engaging and tender tale. Through her non-linear frames, she weaves together the experiences of her doctor and architect parents with magical realism, a bit of imaginative biblical creation retelling, and her own idiosyncrasies to come to understand the world, and what it means to find your way in it when you feel like an outsider. With humor and charm, she learns to move forward in her search for ways to relate to others and better understand herself.

While the New Yorker cartoonist might not be a household name, the themes she explores in her graphic memoir, like finding oneself and embracing your own strangeness, are relatable and heartfelt. Starting several chapters as “Chapter 1”, she embodies the feeling of discovery and starting over that accompany self-reflection and exploration. Her simple pen and ink style drawings lend themselves well to the emotions she represents, and the somewhat surreal world view of the characters she introduces. This is a book for anyone who has felt as though they don’t quite fit in with other humans, and it will reassure you that you’re not the only one walking around with the fear that you may be found out at any moment.


The Word is Murder

Cover image for The word is murder : a novel
The Word is Murder
by Anthony Horowitz
HarperCollins, 2018, 390 pages, Mystery

One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper - the wealthy mother of a famous actor - enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service. Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home. Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who's as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne wants a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz. Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself at the center of a story he cannot control.

This interesting meta version of a Sherlock Holmes novel, where a fictional version of real-life author Anthony Horowitz plays the part of Dr. Watson, threw me for a bit of a loop at first. But like the fictional version of Horowitz, the more I learned about the case, the more intrigued with the story I became. Horowitz has the elements of a good Sherlock Holmes novel mastered.

The real appeal of this book for me, however, was the audio narration of it. Rory Kinnear blew me away with the wide range of voices used for all of the different characters, and there were a few times where I had to stop what I was doing and just listen and marvel at Kinnear’s voice acting skill. Do yourself a favor and listen to this one!


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Love and Ruin

Cover image for Love and ruin : a novel
Love and Ruin
by Paula McLain
Ballantine Books, 2018, 388 pages, Historical Fiction

Martha Gellhorn is known as one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century. In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. But she also finds herself unexpectedly--and uncontrollably--falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest's relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals. Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man's wife, or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that could break both of their hearts.

Paula McLain clearly excels at writing fictional accounts of real-life, complex, independent women who question conventional views and dare to reach for their own dreams. In McLain’s hand, Martha Gellhorn comes alive as a fully fleshed out person, and I appreciated the way she demanded respect for herself and her work in her own right, and wasn’t content with being known as the lover/wife of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway is also fully fleshed out (and fully frustrating), and experiencing the ebbs and flows of their relationship, as well as learning more about such an interesting and tumultuous time in history, kept me engrossed in the story. The narration of the audiobook was excellent.

Although it’s young adult nonfiction, I was interested to see the parallels between this book and Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Geography of Lost Things

The Geography of Lost Things
By Jessica Brody
Simon Pulse, 2018. 320 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Even when he was alive, Jackson was a terrible father and it's going to take a lot more than his 1968 Firebird convertible to change Ali's mind. She plans to sell his final gift to her as quickly as possible so that she can save her childhood home. Luckily, she finds a buyer right away, but he's 300 miles up the California Coast and she can't drive stick. Enter Ali's ex: Nico. Despite not agreeing with her decision to sell the car, Nico offers to drive her the entire way for a cut of the profit. As they drive, however, he tries to convince her to "trade up" to get the money she needs instead. Starting with a hair tie, Nico is convinced that they can raise $25,000 simply by trading things on Craigslist.

This is a fun road trip story with likable characters, an emotional main plot, and a quirky subplot. The book moves quickly as Ali and Nico trade items and make their way up the Western coast of the United States. The plot left plenty of room for character growth and it was enjoyable to watch Ali come to terms with her father and their relationship. I did think her inner monologue was tiring and repetitive at times, but other than that, this is a great read for anyone who wishes they could go on a spontaneous road trip.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fly Girls

Fly Girls: The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII
By P. O'Connell Pearson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 198 pgs. Young Adult Nonfiction

During World War II there was a huge shortage of pilots because women were not allowed to fly in combat, even if they were the ones training the fighter pilots. This is the story of the brave women who loved to fly and had the determination to prove that they could help in the war effort. They helped ferry planes from factories to bases, towed targets for live ammunition artillery training and tested repaired planes and new equipment. They had to face discrimination and harsh living conditions and were considered civilian employees, making less pay and no military benefits. It didn't matter to the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). They loved to fly and they loved our country.

This was a fascinating look at an often forgotten part of history. I really enjoyed all the interesting facts that the author supplied about the war and the cultural norms of the time.There were pictures, maps and sidebars to enhance the book. This is written for middle school readers so it was easy to understand but kept me engaged in the information.  I loved how it showed the amazing strength, intelligence, determination and patriotism of women.


Monday, October 1, 2018

The Magical Slow Cooker: Recipes for Busy Moms

The Magical Slow Cooker: Recipes for Busy Moms 
by Sarah Olson
Front Table Books, 2015. 215 pgs. Nonfiction

Grab your slow cooker and get ready to make healthy and easy meals for your family! This book has slow cooker recipes for every occasion including parties, breakfast, sides and main dishes, and desserts. Complete with tips and measurement equivalents, everything you need to make healthy food for family and friends is inside The Magical Slow Cooker.

Most of these recipes call for little to no work outside of the slow cooker, which is the best way to go when slow cooking. My family enjoyed the pot roast dinner, and there are so many other recipes in here that I need to try like the salted caramel apple cider and the chicken and gravy. This book lives up to its subtitle, these really are useful recipes for busy moms!


Defending the City of God: a Medieval Queen, the First Crusades, and the Quest for Peace in Jerusalem

Defending the City of God: a Medieval Queen, the First Crusades, and the Quest for Peace in Jerusalem 
by Sharan Newman
Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 256 pgs. Nonfiction

In the 12th century, Europeans began the Crusades, their attempt to free the holy land of Jerusalem from infidels and restore the sacred land that saw the life of Christ to the hands of Christians. Historian Newman shows how diverse the area really was, between different native Christian groups, Muslims, and Jews, and how politics of the region during the early 12th century weren’t strictly divided by religious lines, and that women held more power than in Europe during later centuries. She approaches this time period through the life of Queen Melisende, who inherited the throne of Jerusalem through her own right, and the life of her father Baldwin, one of the first crusaders and third elected king of Jerusalem after it had fallen to the Europeans.

This book presents a very accessible history of Jerusalem and the surrounding area during the first half of the 12th century. It promotes itself as a history of Melisende’s rule, but more than half of the book is spent setting the stage through the actions of her father Baldwin. When the historical record falls short the author is quick to insert her own speculation and commentary on things, which I found distracting. But it’s fairly clear when she is speculating versus presenting documented evidence, so it’s still an interesting history of the region. I would recommend this book to the casual history reader.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Check Me Out

by Rebecca Wilhite
Shadow Mountain, 2018. 358 pgs. Romance

Greta loves her job as assistant librarian in her hometown. When she meets the gorgeous Mac in the poetry section, Greta thinks that her life might be perfect. But Mac seems like a different person in his texts versus his real life conversations, and Greta must decide if good looks or a good heart are more important. When her library faces closure, Greta tries everything she can to save it, and repeatedly finds herself turning to her best friend Will, rather than Mac. Which of the two will she choose, and can she save her beloved library?

This was a light-hearted, fun read. As a librarian, I related to many of the activities and quirky things that happened in the library.  The relationship with Mac felt a little superficial and shallow, but I really liked the development of relationship with Will, although I felt that Greta was very oblivious to his feelings and how he was helping Mac to sound smarter. I enjoyed all of the different methods that were used to try and save the library and the theme of political activism was an interesting addition. This is a fun, clean read and would be great for anyone who likes contemporary romances.


Thursday, September 27, 2018


by Ibi Aanu Zoboi
Balzer + Bray, 2018. 289 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Zuri Benitez has pride in her Brooklyn neighborhood, her family, and her Afro-Latino roots. But, she begins to feel set adrift when her neighborhood starts to be “upgraded” and taken over by the upper and middle class. When the Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri instantly dislikes the two teenage sons, especially the judgmental and arrogant Darius.  In this timely retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Zuri must find her place amidst the changes, from looming college applications to an unwanted relocation with her family. And will Zuri find love amidst despite her initial misgivings about Darius Darcy?

This is a fun and interesting take on a classic. I was intrigued by the characters, but felt that the plot was rushed at times, so there was a lack of character development. As someone with a biracial family, I recognized many of the concerns and issues that were presented as things that I think about for my own children. There is strong language in 2-3 scenes, but otherwise is clean. This is a good read for anyone who enjoys retellings of classic literature or who is looking for a new perspective on the world.


The Tao of Pooh

The Tao of Pooh
By Benjamin Hoff
Dutton Books, 1982. 158 pgs. Nonfiction

In this introduction to the belief system of Taoism, Hoff explains how A.A. Milne’s character of Winnie-the-Pooh, by being effortlessly calm, still, and reflective, is actually a great Taoist master. By comparing Taoist principals with scenes from A.A. Milne’s stories, it makes the belief system clear and easy to understand for anyone.

I checked this audiobook out from Overdrive on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. I knew very little about Taoism, but I feel like the juxtaposition of Taoist principals and Winnie-the-Pooh stories really worked well to explain the belief system. Simon Vance narrated the audiobook, and it was a pleasure to listen to as he voiced all the different A.A. Milne characters. I could easily recommend this for anyone interested in learning about Eastern belief systems.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Storm Front 
by Jim Butcher
New American Library, 2000. 322 pgs. Fantasy

 Harry Dresden is a professional wizard who knows that the world that we all know and love is more complicated than we think. The world is full of strange magical things and most of them do not like humans, so he works as a detective consultant. When the Chicago Police Department brings him in to consult on a double homicide reeking of black magic, Harry is ready to go to war but there is always someone behind the spell and now they are after Harry.

 So I have heard people mention this series for a long time but hadn’t ever gotten around to reading it. It was so much fun to listen to. Harry is a very compelling main character he is tall wears a canvas duster and his dialogue is fascinating. I love his advisor who happens to live in a skull Bob. Overall a fun book and I am excited to read the rest of the series.


Iron and Magic

Iron and Magic 
by Ilona Andrews
NYLA, 2018, 406 pgs. Fantasy

 Hugh d’Ambray Warlord of the Builder of Towers has only ever served Roland a nearly omnipotent master who has cast him aside. Hugh is broken but when his Iron Dogs appeal to him for safety he has a decision to make, drink himself to death or be the leader his men need him to be. When Elara Harper needs some mercenaries to keep her people safe she will stop at nothing not even marrying the warlord over the men she needs to protect her castle.

 Alright so if you have not been reading the Kate Daniels Series put this book down until you have read everything from Magic Bites to Magic Binds, it makes a difference I promise. While it is technically a standalone series everything will be so much better if you have all the background. That being said I really had a lot of fun with this branch of the story! I laughed so much and Elara and Hugh fought over the moat and held my breath right along with the characters as they fought necromancers and vampires. Not a clean read but I really enjoyed myself.


The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want

The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want
By Sonja Lyubomirsky
Penguin Press, 2008. 384 pages. Nonfiction

Lyubomirsky uses research to explain what true happiness is and how to obtain it. She provides a guide to improving personal happiness and assessments to measure where you are on your personal happiness scale. In addition, she includes different strategies and activities to help improve intentional living to increase joy in everyday life. The research in this book emphasizes that happiness can be created regardless of circumstances or genetics.

This is a good read for those who want a gateway book into the positive psychology realm. Lyubomirsky does a good job at creating a base of understanding for those new to psychology studies. The ideas in her book, though not ground breaking, are supported by research which gave more weight to her arguments. If you are new to self-help or positive psychology, then this is a good book for you.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Relic (Pendergast #1)

Relic Pendergast #1
by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
New York : Forge, 1996, c1995. 468 pages. Fiction.

Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum's dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human...
But the museum's directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate the new exhibition, in spite of the murders.
Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who--or what--is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop the massacre?
This thriller will entice readers of many different interests as concepts from archeology, paleontology, museology, and other sciences are used to help solve the baffling string of murders. Add foreign myth into the mix and you've got a unique and exhilarating page turner. Choosing a large natural history museum as the setting creates a dark and chilling atmosphere and adds surprise to the many plot twists.
Seeing as this is the Pendergast Series, the small number of appearances made by FBI Special Agent Pendergast is a bit baffling. I also thought the story developed a bit too slow, but once the action starts it never stops. This book is good for those who seek a thriller with just a touch of academia and a killer monster that isn't a werewolf or vampire. 


Friday, September 21, 2018

To Be Where You Are

To Be Where You Are 
by Jan Karon
 Putnam Publishing Group, 2017. 450 pages. Fiction

 This is the fourteenth installment of The Mitford Series that follows the adventures of episcopal priest Father Tim Kavanagh. For Father Tim and Cynthia, it’s time to drink green smoothies and get moving to fight off osteoporosis. Father Tim has been retired for twelve years and is finally getting used to it, but soon he is offered a job and new adventures.

Father Tim’s son Dooley is three months into owning his own veterinary practice and three months into his marriage with Lace and their fostering of four year old Jack Tyler. Things couldn’t be better, but then the pipes break in the clinic and Dooley and Lace are faced with draining their savings to rebuild. Will their marriage be tested beyond what it can withstand?

 These charming stories about Father Tim are refreshingly clean and wholesome without being too cheesy. I love the Father Tim’s quotes, and the poems, and the snatches of hymns. Life in Mitford may seem too good to be true, but it feels authentic. These books are about good people who sometimes deal with hard times, but the help of their community and their various faiths, they come through.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One 
by Raphaƫlle Giordano
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018. 244 pages. General Fiction

From the outside, no one might guess that Camille is miserable. She has a career, a roof over her head -in Paris no less, a hard working husband, an adoring son, and yet she can’t seem to figure out why she is so very unhappy. When car trouble on a rainy night leads her to what would be a creepy mansion in another story, she meets Claude, a “routinologist” who claims to have the cure for Camille’s unshakable blues. Through a series of letters, activities, and exercises, Clause helps Camille to retrain her brain to break through the clouds of hopelessness and find the joy in life again.

I was attracted to this book by the very title, and it delivered what I imagined it would, a story of rebirth and finding oneself. Though not altogether unique or surprising in its content, following Camille as she rediscovers her happiness and finds meaning in her life was hopeful and inspiring, something that we could all use a little more of these days. The focus of many tasks which Claude assigns to Camille could be easily repeated by the reader, such as a gratitude journal or daily meditation, and are tried and true methods for finding greater peace and happiness. In that way, this book works as both an uplifting self-help book and a light, relatable read.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Dread Nation

Cover image for Dread nation : rise up
Dread Nation
By Justina Ireland
Balzer + Bray, 2018, 451 pages, Young Adult Horror

In the middle of the Civil War, the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, changing the fate of the nation forever. Instead of gaining their freedom, African Americans and other minority groups are expected to become Attendants (zombie hunters), trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the wealthy. Almost finished with her education at a combat school, Jane looks forward to returning home and fighting for the freedom of her plantation. But when families around the county start to go missing, Jane is the only one willing to look into their mysterious disappearances

With a strong African American female lead, this book is being hailed for its diversity. This was my favorite aspect of the whole book. The author forces the reader to look at the question of race and slavery in a different way, and I thought it was excellently done. But this novel isn’t just a commentary on racism; this is also a zombie novel. The premise of this book is tight and interesting; and the mystery Jane solves is fascinating and horrifying, and it kept me guessing. The cliffhanger ending left things a bit too unresolved for my liking, especially since it involved zombies threatening to take over the world! It’s going to be hard to wait patiently for the next book in the series.

If you like action/adventure/horror novels, or historical fiction told from a new viewpoint (one of my favorite examples of this is Under a Painted Sky), you’ll find something to like in Dread Nation.


Spinning Silver

Cover image for Spinning silver
Spinning Silver
By Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 2018, 466 pages, Fantasy

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father is not a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem intercedes. Hardening her heart, she sets out to retrieve what is owed, and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. But when an ill-advised boast brings her to the attention of the cold creatures who haunt the wood, nothing will be the same again.

Novik’s retelling of the Rumplestiltskin fairytale looks almost nothing like the original. Her skill in taking a classic story and reworking it into something completely new and refreshing leaves me in awe. The story is told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, and each one of them has a distinct voice and a storyline that kept me equally engaged. Fans of fairytale retellings and authors such as Katherine Arden and Eowyn Ivey won’t want to miss this one!


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones
Algonquin, 2018. 308 pages, General Fiction

Roy and Celestial are just learning to navigate life together as newlyweds when they are yanked from their bed and Roy is sentenced to prison for a violent crime he didn’t commit. Inevitably, life goes on, and this story recounts through their letters to one another the ways that distance and doubt attempt to complicate love’s hold. Celestial’s uncle works diligently to get Roy’s conviction overturned, but the two must decide if there’s still a place in their hearts for one another as their realities evolve and they face their unique circumstance.

This book is an intimate portrayal of the perils and pitfalls of modern romance under strained circumstances, and the compromises it takes to live a life committed to another person. Race, though not the focus of this book, cannot be ignored, and the story comments deftly on this topic, as well as gender roles, racial disparity, and American culture. Though their story is all at once hopeful and  heartbreaking, I enjoyed the unique style of this book and getting to know Roy and Celestial through their letters to one another. I listened to the audiobook version of this title, where a male and female reader alternated narration. It was a unique, conversational format that matched the storytelling style of the book perfectly; I would highly recommend going that route. 


Friday, August 31, 2018

Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars

Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars
Ethan Hawke, Greg Ruth
Grand Central Publishing, 2016. 232 pages.

In the war-torn Southwest of 1872, a young Apache brave loses his family, home, and everything he loves. In an act of retribution, the young man convinces the entire Apache nation to attack the Mexican town of Azripe, leaving death and destruction in their wake. This event transforms the young Apache man into the Native American hero Geronimo. But even as the Apache desperately fight to preserve their way of life, the “white eyes” in blue coats continue to expand westward, destroying the Apache way of life.

This grim but beautifully illustrated account of the Apache wars is an emotional graphic novel that recounts an important but often misrepresented part of US history. The story is without context and at times can be confusing if one is not familiar with the history of the Southwest or the Apache Wars. Nevertheless, what this volume lacks in detail more than makes up for with the emotional artwork that richly conveys the horrors of war and the sense of loss that haunt this part of our nation’s history. 


Little Moments of Love

Little Moments of Love
By Catana Chetwynd
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018. 148 pages. Graphic Novel

Catana Chetwynd never realized when she began posting her doodles online that they would become an internet sensation.  Focusing mainly on her long-term relationship with her boyfriend, readers have found her sweet, relatable humor infectious. She has compiled several of her classic comics as well as some new ones in this collection. 

This is a quick but upbeat book that serves as a reminder of how positivity in relationships can turn a bad day into a good one.  Though most certainly an idealized portrayal, there is a lighthearted focus on the positive that can be invigorating and inspiring.  Silly at times but always sweet, this would be good for anyone wanting a quick pick me up.