Thursday, February 2, 2023

Americana






Americana
by Luke Healy
Nobrow, 2019. 332 pages. Graphic Novel

The Pacific Crest Trail runs 2660 miles, from California's border with Mexico to Washington's border with Canada. To walk it is to undertake a grueling test of body and spirit ... challenge accepted. This intimate, engaging autobiographical work recounts the author's own attempt to walk the length of the USA's west coast. Healy's life-changing journey weaves in and out of reflections on his experiences in America and his development as an artist, navigating both the trail itself and the unique culture of the people who attempt to complete it.

This was such a fun book to read! I personally love travel and hiking, so for me, reading this book allowed me to vicariously live through the author and have my own experiences on a trail I'll probably never get to hike in my lifetime. Americana is full of humor is relatable to just about anyone.

If you like Americana, you might also like: 


Clarkston Potter/Publishers, 2019. 156 pages. Graphic Novel

From explaining why positive reinforcement is a more effective (and less damaging) way to control dogs' behavior than punishment to demonstrating the importance of weighing a dog's unique personality against stereotypes about its breed, Bradshaw offers extraordinary insight into the question of how we really ought to treat our dogs.



The American dream?
by Shing Yin Khor
Zest Books, 2019. 160 pages. Graphic Novel

An illustrated comic travelogue about an American immigrant driving alone through all that's left of "The Mother Road," Route 66







NS

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood

By Cari Beauchamp 

University of California Press, 1998. 475 pages. Nonfiction 

Cari Beauchamp masterfully combines biography with social and cultural history to examine the lives of Frances Marion and her many female colleagues who shaped filmmaking from 1912 through the 1940s. Frances Marion was Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter--male or female--or almost three decades, wrote almost 200 produced films and won Academy Awards for writing The Big House and The Champ.

This book begins with a quote by Frances Marion: "I spent my life searching for a man to look up to without lying down." This history/ biography is a meticulously researched story of the very early days of Hollywood, a fascinating, rough era of how silent films changed the world. The focus is on Frances Marion, her long friendship with Mary Pickford, her marriages, her films, how she fought for herself and her undeniable talent. Her life is full of triumph and tragedy. She worked hard and had an amazing life. She associated with many famous silent film notables, such as Rudolph Valentino (who, despite his depiction on film was modest and shy!), Hedda Hopper and Marion Davies. I love this little-known era in Hollywood history, and I loved learning about these smart, amazing women. 


If you like Without Lying Down, you might also like: 

The Girls in the Picture: a novel

By Melanie Benjamin

Delacorte Press, 2018. 422 pages. Fiction

It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone's lips these days is "flickers"--the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you'll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all. In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have given her the title of America's Sweetheart. The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution. But their ambitions are challenged both by the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender ... As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered. With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness.

By Janice Kaplan
Dutton, 2020. 334 pages. Nonfiction

We tell girls that they can be anything, so why do 90 percent of Americans believe that geniuses are almost always men? New York Times bestselling journalist Janice Kaplan explores the powerful forces that have rigged the system--and celebrates the women geniuses past and present who have triumphed anyway.






By Jeanine Basinger
Harper, 2022. 739 pages. Nonfiction

The real story of Hollywood -- as told by such luminaries as Steven Spielberg, Frank Capra, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Harold Lloyd, Jordan Peele, and nearly four hundred others -- reveals a fresh history of the American movie industry from its beginnings to today.






MGB

Movements and Moments

Movements and Moments
Edited by Sonja Eismann
Drawn & Quarterly, 2022. 261 pages. Graphic Novel

Indigenous Peoples all over the world have always had to stand their ground in the face of colonialism. While the details may differ, what these stories have in common is their commitment to resistance in a world that puts profit before respect, and western notions of progress before their own. Movements and Moments is an introductory glimpse into how Indigenous women tell their stories in their own words. 

Each of the stories highlighted in Movements and Moments is unique, with their own storytelling style and artwork, yet they all deal with universal issues and themes such as injustice and intolerance. This graphic novel is a great introduction to indigenous feminist history in the global south. As a collection, this book shows the power of community and advocacy. 

If you like Movements and Moments you might also like:

by Mikki Kendall
Ten Speed Press, 2019. 195 pages. Young Adult Comics

The ongoing struggle for women's rights has spanned human history, touched nearly every culture on Earth, and encompassed a wide range of issues, such as the right to vote, work, get an education, own property, exercise bodily autonomy, and beyond. Examining where we've been, where we are, and where we're going, Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists is an indispensable resource for people of all genders interested in the fight for a more liberated future. 

by Patty Krawec
Broadleaf Books, 2022. 203 pages. Nonfiction

Weaving her own story with the story of her ancestors and with the broader themes of creation, replacement, and disappearance, Krawec helps readers see settler colonialism through the eyes of an Indigenous writer. Settler colonialism tried to force us into one particular way of living, but the old ways of kinship can help us imagine a different future. Krawec asks, What would it look like to remember that we are all related? How might we become better relatives to the land, to one another, and to Indigenous movements for solidarity? Braiding together historical, scientific, and cultural analysis, Indigenous ways of knowing, and the vivid threads of communal memory, Krawec crafts a stunning, forceful call to 'unforget' our history. 

by Sarah Glidden
Drawn & Quarterly, 2016. 298 pages. Graphic Novel

Cartoonist Sarah Glidden accompanies her two journalist friends as they research potential stories on the effects of the Iraq War on the Middle East and, specifically, the war's refugees. As the crew works their way through Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, Glidden observes the reporters as they ask civilians, refugees, and officials, "Who are you?" Everyone has a story to tell: the Iranian blogger, the United Nations refugee administrator, a taxi driver, the Iraqi refugee deported from the US, the Iraqis seeking refuge in Syria, and even the American Marine.
sr

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Orgullo Prieto

Orgullo Prieto
Por Tenoch Huerta Mejía
Grijalbo, 2022. 220 páginas. No Ficción

«Espero que este libro contribuya a ensalzar el orgullo de ser lo que somos, para que no haya un “prieto arrogante,” como me nombran, sino que haya millones de prietos orgullosos en este país.» -Tenoch Huerta

México es un país racista que niega serlo. Con argumentos como “No es racismo, sino clasismo”, “Acá somos todos mestizos” o “Nunca hubo un sistema segregacionista como en Estados Unidos” negamos que hemos perpetuado la discriminación durante generaciones.

Tenoch Huerta, actor de reconocido prestigio y portavoz del debate y la lucha antirracista en México desde hace años, se encarga de rebatir estos y otros mitos acerca del racismo en las páginas de «Orgullo Prieto.» En este libro encontrarás una serie de reflexiones sobre las diferentes discriminaciones que sufre un mexicano por su color de piel en distintos ámbitos —el social, el laboral, el familiar—, así como numerosas vivencias personales del autor sobre situaciones en las que ha sido víctima de racismo, pero también en las que ha ejercido las prácticas racistas propias de un problema que México no quiere ver.

Si le gusta «Orgullo Prieto» le recomendamos:

Trejo: Mi Vida de Crimen, Redención y Hollywood
Por Danny Trejo
Atria Español, 2021. 331 páginas. Autobiografía

Por primera vez, toda la historia real, fascinante e inspiradora del viaje de Danny Trejo desde el crimen, la prisión, la adicción y la pérdida a la fama inesperada como el malo favorito de Hollywood con un corazón de oro. En la pantalla, Danny Trejo el actor es un malvado que ha sido asesinado al menos cien veces. Le han disparado, apuñalado, ahorcado, cortado en pedazos, estrujado con un ascensor, y una vez, incluso lo derritieron hasta convertirlo en una sustancia viscosa y sangrienta. Fuera de la pantalla, es un héroe amado tanto por las comunidades de rehabilitación como por los fanáticos obsesionados. Pero el verdadero Danny Trejo es mucho más complicado que la leyenda.

Criado en un hogar abusivo, Danny luchó, desde joven, con una adicción a la heroína y períodos en algunas de las prisiones estatales más infames del país, incluyendo San Quentin y Folsom, antes de protagonizar los clásicos modernos como Heat, From Dusk till Dawn y Machete. Ahora, en estas memorias graciosas, desgarradoras y llenas de suspenso, Danny nos lleva a través de los increíbles altibajos de su vida, incluidos el conocer en prisión a uno de los asesinos en serie más famosos del mundo y trabajar con leyendas como Charles Bronson y Robert De Niro.

En detalles honestos e impávidos, Danny relata cómo logró manejar los horrores de la prisión, reconstruirse luego de encontrar la sobriedad y la espiritualidad en confinamiento solitario, e inspirarse en los robos infundidos con adrenalina de su pasado para los papeles cinematográficos que lo convirtieron en un personaje famoso. También comparte las dolorosas contradicciones de su vida personal. Aunque habla sobre su pasado tanto en prisiones como en NPR para inspirar a un sinnúmero de personas en sus propios caminos a la recuperación y redención, él aun lucha por ayudar a sus hijos con sus propias batallas con la adicción y por armar relaciones duraderas.

Redentor y lacerante, conmovedor y real, Trejo es el retrato de una vida magnífica y un viaje inolvidable y excepcional a través de la tragedia, el dolor y, finalmente, el éxito que te cautivará e inspirará.

Charytín: El Tiempo Pasa ... ¡Pero Yo No!
Por Charytín Goyco
HarperCollins Español, 2022. 270 páginas. Autobiografía

Desde una infancia dolorosa con complicados secretos familiares a un amor muy diferente al de las novelas, Charytín Goyco nos lo cuenta todo, con su peculiar tono cargado de drama y comedia a la vez. Sus anécdotas con famosos (Juan Luis Guerra, Camilo Sesto, Jenni Rivera, entre muchos). Los "besos de divorcio" que compartió con los galanes de moda en innumerables películas. La pérdida de un bebé y su angustia más persistente: la de ser madre en una profesión donde tener hijos ponía en peligro todos los proyectos. La verdadera razón por la cual dejó de cantar.

Sus incesantes sueños plagados de fantasmas, premoniciones y revelaciones, siempre encarando a la muerte, y los conflictos que este extraño don le causó con sus seres queridos. Sus raíces, su historia, sus primeras memorias de niña, entre dos continentes, dignas de la mejor película. Su lucha interna desde niña por ser tachada de "niña rara," "ridícula" o estrambótica.

MEB

Labels: Español, MEB, No Ficción, Autobiografía, Memorias


Monday, January 23, 2023

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter


The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
By Sue Monk Kidd
HarperOne, 2016. 289 pages. Biography

For years, Sue Monk Kidd was a conventionally religious woman. Then, in the late 1980s, she experienced an unexpected awakening, and began a journey toward a feminine spirituality. With the exceptional storytelling skills that have helped make her name, Kidd tells her very personal story of the fear, anger, healing, and freedom she experienced on the path toward the wholeness that many women have lost in the church.

From a jarring encounter with sexism in a suburban drugstore, to monastery retreats and to rituals in the caves of Crete, she reveals a new level of feminine spiritual consciousness for all women, one that retains a meaningful connection with the "deep song of Christianity," embraces the sacredness of ordinary women's experience, and has the power to transform in the most positive ways every fundamental relationship in a woman's life, her marriage, her career, and her religion.

In this book, Sue Monk Kidd shares her intimate journey and transformation from a faithful Christian woman to a believer of the feminine divine and her own power. She discusses the overwhelming influence and oppression of our patriarchal society in churches and throughout the world and the loss of the sacred Mother. I loved her discussion of the masculine and feminine and how parts of her journey are very relatable to my own spiritual journey. People who love learning about others' spiritual transformations, the making of rituals, and coming to know oneself will enjoy this book.

JC  


If you like The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, you might also like:


When God Was a Woman

By Merlin Stone
Dial Press, 1976. 265 pages. Nonfiction

How did the shift from matriarchy to patriarchy come about? In fascinating detail, Merlin Stone tells us the story of the Goddess who reigned supreme in the Near and Middle East. Under her reign, societal roles differed markedly from those in patriarchal Judeo-Christian cultures: women bought and sold property, traded in the marketplace, and inherited title and land from their mothers. Documenting the wholesale rewriting of myth and religious dogmas, Merlin Stone describes an ancient conspiracy in which the Goddess was reimagined as a wanton, depraved figure, a characterization confirmed and perpetuated by one of modern culture's best-known legends—that of the fall of Adam and Eve. Insightful and thought-provoking, this is essential reading for anyone interested in the origin of current gender roles and in rediscovering women's power.


If Women Rose Rooted: A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging
By Sharon Blackie
September Publishing, 2016. 400 pages. Nonfiction

Aged 30, Sharon Blackie found herself weeping in the car park of the multinational corporation where she worked, wondering if this was what a nervous breakdown felt like. Somewhere along the line, she realized, she had lost herself - and so began her long journey back to authenticity, rootedness in place and belonging.

In this extraordinary book of myth, memoir and modern-day mentors (from fashion designers to lawyers), Blackie faces the wasteland of Western culture, the repression of women, and the devastation of our planet. She boldly names the challenge: to reimagine women's place in the world, and to rise up, firmly rooted in our own native landscapes and the powerful Celtic stories and wisdom which sprang from them.

A haunting heroine's journey for every woman who finds inspiration and solace in the natural world.


Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
By Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Ballantine Books, 1992. 537 pages. Nonfiction

Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Jungian analyst and cantadora storyteller shows how women's vitality can be restored through what she calls "psychic archeological digs" into the ruins of the female unconsious. Using multicultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, Dr. Estes helps women reconnect with the healthy, instinctual, visionary attributes of the Wild Woman archetype.

Dr. Estes has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul.

The Scapegoat

 

The Scapegoat

By Daphne Du Maurier

University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957. 348 pages. Fiction 

Two men--one English, the other French--meet by chance in a provincial railway station and are astounded that they are so much alike that they could easily pass for each other. Over the course of a long evening, they talk and drink. It is not until he awakes the next day that John, the Englishman, realizes that he may have spoken too much. His French companion is gone, having stolen his identity. For his part, John has no choice but to take the Frenchman's place--as master of a château, director of a failing business, head of a large and embittered family, and keeper of too many secrets. Loaded with suspense and crackling wit, The Scapegoat tells the double story of the attempts by John, the imposter, to escape detection by the family, servants, and several mistresses of his alter ego, and of his constant and frustrating efforts to unravel the mystery of the enigmatic past that dominates the existence of all who live in the château.

I had seen the 2012 British TV adaptation of this a few years back, and really enjoyed it. The book is a lot more exciting, and how the characters are described and how they develop is really fascinating and compelling. Of course you've got to employ a strong dose of the willing suspension of disbelief, but this novel is well written, thought-provoking and doesn't have any dull moments. The main character is also very believable, with his change of moods, and his the very human things which drive his various desires. There are also some lovely descriptions of the French countryside. I enjoyed it more than the TV adaptation, and the ending is more surprising and interesting. 

If you liked The Scapegoat you might also like: 

By Ruth Ware
Scout Press, 2018. 368 pages. Fiction

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person--but also that the cold-reading skills she's honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money. Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased...where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it. Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware's signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

By Allie Larkin
Plume, 2013. 297 pages. Fiction

When Jenny Shaw hears someone shout "Jessie!" across a hotel lobby, she impulsively answers. All her life, Jenny has toed the line, but something propels her to seize the opportunity to become Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. Lonely in her own life, Jenny is embraced by Jessie's warm circle of friends--and finds unexpected romance. But when she delves into Jessie's past, Jenny discovers a secret that spurs her to take another leap into the unknown.



By Dean Koontz
Thomas & Mercer, 2021. 352 pages. Fiction

A decade ago, Emily Carlino vanished after her car broke down on a California highway. She was presumed to be one of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessups victims whose remains were never found. Writer David Thorne still hasn't recovered from losing the love of his life, or from the guilt of not being there to save her. Since then, he's sought closure any way he can. He even visits regularly with Jessup in prison, desperate for answers about Emilys final hours so he may finally lay her body to rest. Then David meets Maddison Sutton, beguiling, playful, and keenly aware of all David has lost. But what really takes his breath away is that everything about Maddison, down to her kisses, is just like Emily. As the fantastic becomes credible, David's obsession grows, Maddison's mysterious past deepens and terror escalates. Is she Emily? Or an irresistible dead ringer? Either way, the ultimate question is the same: What game is she playing? Whatever the risk in finding out, Davids willing to take it for this precious second chance. Its been ten years since he's felt this inspired, this hopeful, this much in love and he's afraid.

MGB

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Defy The Night

Defy the Night

by Brigid Kemmerer

Bloomsbury, 2021. 448 pages. Young Adult Fiction

The kingdom of Kandala is recovering from a devastating plague but the cure is rare and expensive. The patience of the people is wearing thin. Soon cries for rebellion and revolution spread through the land, to the very doors of the palace. Prince Corrick is the King’s Justice. It is his job to do the messy work of being the iron fist of the crown and protecting his brother, King Hariston. The consuls of the land are worried about trade lines and shipments being attacked, not so much about the people in their sectors. Tessa Cade is an apprentice at a shop by day and rogue apothecary by night. She and her best friend Wes steal from those who have more than enough of the cure in order to treat the desperate people of Kandala. When one of their midnight runs goes horribly wrong, Tessa hatches a plan to infiltrate the castle and bring the corrupt system crashing down.

This book is full of romance, intrigue, and tension! Just when you think you can take a breath and put the book down, something else happens and you have to keep reading. Tessa Cade is a strong female protagonist who loves her kingdom and its people, but can see where change needs to happen. The situations in which she finds herself are authentic and, again, full of tension. The writing is engaging and the story is fast paced going between the points of view of Tessa and Prince Corrick. This intricately plotted storyline will keep you on the edge of your seat.

If you liked Defy the Night, you may also like:


The Cruel Prince

by Holly Black

Little Brown and Company, 2018. 370 pages. Young Adult Fiction

Jude, seventeen and mortal, gets tangled in palace intrigues while trying to win a place in the treacherous High Court of Faerie, where she and her sisters have lived for a decade.


King of Scars

by Leigh Bardugo

Imprint, 2019. 514 pages. Young Adult Fiction

No one knows what Nikolai Lantsov endured in his country's bloody civil war. Now enemies gather at his weakened borders, and the young king must find a way to refill Ravka's coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army. Zoya Nazyalensky is devoted to rebuilding the army -- but she also has enemies to conquer. Nina Zenik wages her own war to save the Grisha -- and must face the pain of her past. As a dark magic within Nikolai grows stronger, he must journey where the deepest magic survives -- and vanquish the terrible legacy inside him.

 

Throne of Glass

by Sarah J. Maas

Bloomsbury, 2012. 406 pages. Science Fiction

After she has served a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, Crown Prince Dorian offers eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien her freedom on the condition that she act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. 



AG

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Boys

The Boys
by Katie Hafner
Spiegel & Grau, 2022. 256 pages. Fiction

When introverted, eccentric Ethan Fawcett falls in love with the vivacious Barb, he has every reason to believe he will no longer live in solitude. But then the global pandemic hits, and their relationship takes a turn for the worse. Ethan grows obsessed with providing the perfect life for their adopted 8-year-old twins, Tommy and Sam, and in the process he pushes Barb away. Once the planet returns to a version of normalcy, Ethan takes Tommy and Sam on a week-long biking adventure in Italy. During this disastrous excursion, it becomes clear just how unusual Ethan and his children are—and what it will take for Ethan to repair his marriage.

The Boys is an interesting combination of sweet love story, light domestic drama, and an unexpected twist that turns the story into something else entirely. I appreciated this warm-hearted and compassionate take on living in an early pandemic world full of uncertainty and anxiety. Hafner writes both Ethan and Barb as characters you can root for. And then there's that plot twist I mentioned, which is guaranteed to make you question everything you've read prior to that point. If you like domestic fiction with an unexpected surprise, you'll enjoy reading The Boys.

If you like The Boys you might also like:

by Elizabeth Strout
Random House, 2022. 288 pages. Fiction

As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and longtime friend, William. For the next several months, it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea. They will not emerge unscathed.

Joan is Okay
by Weike Wang
Random House, 2022. 212 pages. Fiction

Joan is a thirtysomething ICU physician at a busy New York City hospital, the daughter of Chinese parents who moved to America to secure the American dream for Joan and her brother, Fang, then returned to China. Joan's whole life has been about study and work. Sometimes Joan looks up and wonders where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white doctor's coat makes her feel at home; or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own social and cultural expectations. When Joan's father suddenly dies, Joan is forced to reckon with aspects of her life that she's been avoiding for years.

MB

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Only A Monster

Only A Monster
By Vanessa Len
HarperTeen, 2022. 403 pages. Young Adult Fiction

When she discovers that her family are monsters with terrifying, hidden powers, Joan must embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself and her family from a legendary monster slayer who will do anything to bring her family down.

This time-traveling urban fantasy set in England contains subtle world-building that doesn't weigh you down even as it invites the reader quickly into a new reality of a world with Monsters. Our protagonist Joan is presented as a goodie-two-shoes, loving her morally grey family, while still disapproving of their indiscretions.  Her crush?  The straight-laced Nick with whom she has spent the summer volunteering with at a historical English estate.  But as with all good books, her character evolves as she is placed in extenuating circumstances that thrust her moral compass into question.  This is a fast paced and fun YA fantasy that I will eagerly await the next installment of!  

If you like Only A Monster, you might also like:

Bloodmarked
By Tracey Deonn
Simon & Schuster, 2022. 561 pages. Young Adult Fiction

A medium, bloodcrafter and scion, Bree must learn to control her unpredictable and dangerous powers to rescue Nick, the Legendborn boy she fell in love with, but finds herself drawn to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.


This Savage Song
By Victoria Schwab
Greenwillow Books, 2016. 427 pages. Young Adult Fiction

As the heirs to opposing sides in a warring city, Kate Harker and Augustus Flynn should never have met. A Romeo and Juliet-esque fantasy about the difference between good and evil and the blurry gray area in between.


RBL

Hotel Magnifique

Hotel Magnifique 
By Emily J. Taylor 
Razorbill, 2022. 391 pages. Young Adult Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Jani and her little sister Zosa secure jobs at a glamorous magical hotel, but when Jani realizes that their staff contracts are unbreakable, she embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa--and the other staff--from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d'hôtel. 

This story is super fascinating and was hard to put down. The world was well crafted, and the way the magic was used and how the characters interacted with the world was clearly well thought out and integrated seamlessly. Certain parts of this book reminded me both of CARAVAL (see below) with its magic and traveling attraction, and the Korean drama Hotel del Luna with the magical hotel that will change and adapt to accommodate its guests, providing the most magical and wonderful experience magic can produce. And yet, there’s a darker side that must be uncovered and explored to progress the story to a satisfying conclusion. Overall, a wonderful book that I can easily recommend. 

If you liked Hotel Magnifique, you might also like: 

By Stephanie Garber 
Flatiron Books, 2017. 407 pages. Young Adult Fantasy

Believing that she will never be allowed to participate in the annual Caraval performance when her ruthless father arranges her marriage, Scarlett receives the invitation she has always dreamed of before her sister, Tella, is kidnapped by the show's mastermind organizer. 

By J. Elle 
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 360 pages. Young Adult Fantasy

Taken away from her Houston neighborhood by the father she never knew in the aftermath of her mother’s murder, a Black teen arrives on a hidden island of magic, where she discovers her half-god identity and responsibility in helping protect the mortal and immortal worlds. 

ACS

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

A Wilderness of Stars

Shea Ernshaw
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2022, 391 pages, YA Fantasy.

An illness cursing the land forces seventeen-year-old Vega, the Last Astronomer, to venture across the wilderness to discover the stars message that will save her people.

I picked up this book because I’ve been in love with the night sky since I knew the stars had names, and was excited to see that the main character of this story was going to be an astronomer. While there unfortunately didn’t seem to be as much astronomy to this book as I had hoped, I still found it a very interesting read. Think ‘Fahrenheit 451’ or ‘The Giver’, but with a female protagonist and with lyrical and colorful prose juxtaposed against a gray and dying world. I also found the sickness that the characters were facing very poignant, given the pandemic our own world has faced over the past few years. While it’s not the type of book I typically read, the more I got more interested in the world and characters the faster the pages flew by. I would recommend this to readers who like dystopian fiction or thought-provoking conclusions.

If you liked A Wilderness of Stars, you may also enjoy:

Susan Dennard
TorTeen, 2022, 294 pages, YA Fantasy.

Winnie Wednesday, an outcast from the Luminaries, is determined to restore her family's good name by taking the deadly hunter trials on her sixteenth birthday, but when she turns to her former best friend Jay Friday for help, they discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.


Mara Rutherford
Inkyard Press, 2022, 390 pages, YA Fantasy.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla. When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she's supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice. Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake--and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.

ERB

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Financial Feminist

Financial Feminist
by Tori Dunlap 
Dey Street Books, 2022. 320 pages. Nonfiction 

In Financial Feminist, Tori Dunlap distills the principles of her shame-free approach to paying off debt, figuring out your value categories to spend mindfully, saving money without monk-like deprivation, and investing in order to spend your retirement tanning in Tulum. Featuring journaling prompts, deep-dives into the invisible aspects of the financial landscape, and interviews with experts on everything money--from predatory credit card companies to the racial wealth gap and voting with your dollars--Financial Feminist is the ultimate guide to making your money work harder for you (rather than the other way around). 

Financial Feminist offers guidance for a millennial mindset, with a special emphasis on the unique challenges (stagnant wages, ballooning home prices, and out-of-control student loan debt) facing younger generations. Tori Dunlap, known on social media for Her First 100k, aims her book at young women, combining a pithy, irreverent tone with sound money advice. A solid starting place for readers looking for easy-to-understand financial guidance that won’t talk down to them. 

If you like Financial Feminist, you might also like:

We Should All Be Millionaires
by Rachel Rodgers
HarperCollins Leadership, 2021. 288 pages. Nonfiction 

In this book, Rachel Rodgers— a Black woman, mother of four, attorney, business owner, and self-made millionaire— shares the lessons she's learned both in her own journey to wealth and in coaching hundreds of women through their own journeys to seven figures. Only 10 percent of the world's millionaires are women, making it difficult for women to wield the economic power that will create lasting equality. Whatever is stopping you from having seven figures in the bank—whether it's shaky confidence, knowledge gaps when it comes to wealth building tactics, imposter syndrome, a janky mindset about money (it's okay, we've all been there!), or simply not knowing where to begin—this book shows you how to clear every obstacle in your way, show up, and glow up. We Should All Be Millionaires details a realistic, achievable, step-by-step path to creating the support, confidence, and plan you need to own your success and become the millionaire the world needs you to be. 


by Tiffany the Budgetnista Aliche 
Rodale Books, 2021. 368 pages. Nonfiction 

Tiffany Aliche was a successful pre-school teacher with a healthy nest egg when a recession and advice from a shady advisor put her out of a job and into a huge financial hole. As she began to chart the path to her own financial rescue, the outline of her ten-step formula for attaining both financial security and peace of mind began to take shape. These principles have now helped more than one million women worldwide save and pay off millions in debt, and begin planning for a richer life. Revealing this practical ten-step process for the first time in its entirety, Get Good with Money introduces the powerful concept of building wealth through financial wholeness: a realistic, achievable, and energizing alternative to get-rich-quick and over-complicated money management systems.

SGR

Friday, January 13, 2023

When No One is Watching

When No One is Watching 
By Alyssa Cole 
William Morrow & Co, 2020. 352 Pages. Fiction 

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she's known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community's past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in her neighbor Theo. But Sydney and Theo's deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all. When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other, or themselves, long enough to find out before they too disappear? 

The seamless way Cole weaves mystery with romance, science fiction and the cultural and racial implications of gentrification is an impressive feat. If you’ve enjoyed any of Jordan Peele’s films, this book is very reminiscent of his style of filmmaking. The setting was richly detailed, it’s a Brooklyn that’s recognizable, but Cole really excelled at creating an uneasy atmosphere and neighbors that are, somehow, both overtly and subtly sinister. You could really feel Sydney’s paranoia which made her a protagonist to root for, even with her own shady backstory clouding your ability to fully trust her. I recommend When No One is Watching to anyone looking for a suspenseful read that is issue-oriented. It succeeds on all fronts. 

If you like When No One is Watching, you might also like:

By Zakiya Dalila Harris 
Atria Books, 2021. 357 pages. Fiction 

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she's thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. Soon a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust. Then the notes begin to appear on Nella's desk and it's hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there's a lot more at stake than just her career. 

By Oyinkan Braithwaite 
Doubleday, 2018. 226 pages. Fiction. 

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola's third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede's practicality is the sisters' saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her 'missing' boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works is the bright spot in her life. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola's phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.

BW

Love Prescription


Love Prescription: Seven Days to More Intimacy, Connection, and Joy
By John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman
Penguin Books, 2022. 178 pgs. Nonfiction

The authors have dedicated decades of research to prove that great relationships are founded on the small stuff. This short book teaches that there are seven small things, that if done often, can transform your relationships. The steps are: 1. Make Contact, 2. Ask a Big Question, 3. Say Thank You, 4. Give a Real Compliment, 5. Ask for What You Need, 6. Reach Out and Touch, 7. Declare a Date Night.

The Love Prescription distills the Gottman's life work into a bite-size, seven-day action plan with easy, immediately actionable steps. There will be no grand gestures and no big, hard conversations. There's nothing to buy or do to prepare. Anyone can do this, from any starting point.

I like that this book offered advice that felt doable. Sometimes relationship books suggest making changes that feel huge and overwhelming. The Gottmans encourage us to make small little changes, but to do them often and consistently. It also made me feel better that two people who have studied relationships almost their whole lives, are still making mistakes and learning how to do things better. They share stories from their own lives and couples from the Love Lab to help clarify the steps. I recommend this book to anyone who would like better relationships in their lives. They focus mostly on marriage relationships, but most of the concepts apply to any type of relationship. 

If you like Love Prescriptions, you may also like: 

By Nate & Kaley Klemp
Penguin Books, 2021. 218 pgs. Nonfiction
Often in marriage relationships, we feel that things need to be fair. The 80/80 Marriage pushes couples beyond the limited idea of "fairness" toward a new model grounded on radical generosity and shared success, one that calls for each partner to contribute 80 percent to build the strongest possible relationship.


5 Love Languages
By Gary Chapman
Northfield Pub, 2010. 202 pgs. Nonfiction
Dr. Chapman explains how people communicate love in different ways, and shares the wonderful things that happen when men and women learn to speak each other's language.


The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work
By Eli J. Finkel
Dutton, 2018. 329 pgs. Nonfiction
A psychology professor discusses his recent research into modern marriages and offers practical advice and long-term strategies to pursue self-discovery and personal growth and improve self-esteem along with your spouse so that happiness can thrive in your relationship.

AL