Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
All Hearts Come Home For Christmas
By Sarah Eden, Anita Stansfield, Esther Hatch & Joanna Barker
Covenant Communications, 2019. 290 pgs. Romance
This is a wonderful collection of Regency Christmas short stories. I'll be honest that the only reason I picked this up is because Sarah Eden is one of my favorite authors and I noticed she had a short story in this collection. I loved that her story returned to Falstone Castle and the Lancaster family. I liked getting a brief but deeper look into their family. I was pleasantly surprised by "Tis the Season to be Daring" by Esther Hatch. I loved this story. The main characters had such great banter, the plot was fun and unique, and I enjoyed it so much.
This collection of short stories was perfect for the Christmas season. The stories were long enough to get to know the characters but short enough that I could fit them into my crazy Christmas schedule. This would be great for anyone looking for a collection of feel good Christmas romance. The best thing is that they can be read any time of the year.
We Are Not Free
By Traci Chee
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 384 pages. Young Adult
Fourteen Japanese-American teens who grew up in Japantown, San Francisco, have their lives dramatically changed shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They’re imprisoned in relocation camps, and while some look for hope and opportunities, everyone struggles with the discouragement, racism, and abuse that now permeates their lives. Some teens will be released, some will go to war, and yet others will be imprisoned until the camps are closed. Despite everything, these 14 friends must rally together when everything else threatens to pull them apart.
This was an incredibly moving book, made all the more impactful because of the 14 distinct backstories and personalities. It’s a stark reminder that people in similar circumstances can have vastly different reactions to those circumstances. This book is just as much about the setting as it is the people. A portion is based here in Utah, around the Topaz War Relocation Center. While I haven’t been to the site myself, now a museum, the evocative detail will color any future visits I might make.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
By Barack Obama
Crown, 2020. 751 pages. Biography
by Jerry Seinfeld
Simon & Schuster, 2020. 470 pages. Nonfiction
Seinfeld has collected his material from many decades in comedy and published them here for you to enjoy. Chronologically arranged, the "bits" are prefaced by some details of what was happening in his life at the time, and how that colored his work. If you are familiar with his early material, you will find it repeated here, but his newer material is a fun reflection of modern living.
I have always enjoyed Seinfeld's comedy, and this audiobook, read by the author, didn't disappoint. I laughed out loud several times as I listened. This might be a good antidote to any blues you might have this winter.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice
Friday, December 4, 2020
By Jessica Jung
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2020. 346 pages. Young Adult
When Rachel Kim is recruited by one of Korea’s top K-pop labels, her family moves their lives from New York to Korea so that Rachel can become a trainee, and hopefully, debut one day in a K-pop group. Yet, due to the fierce competition and cattiness of the other female trainees, her life is more difficult than she imagined. When Rachel starts to fall for one of Korea’s top idols, the careful balance she has created in her life starts to wobble. She must decide what lengths she will go to make her dreams come true.
Rachel wants nothing more than to debut as a K-pop idol, and while she has the talent, she freezes in front of the cameras. It’s made it difficult for her to progress, and the bullying of her fellow trainees just adds to the stresses in her life. As a character I feel like Rachel is quite strong to withstand all that she does, but even she gets to a point when she’s struggling. It’s relatable for anyone who has put on a brave face while struggling. The author, Jessica Jung, went through the process of training and becoming a K-pop idol, so the peak behind the scenes of the glittery K-pop world feels authentic, and heavily influenced by her insider knowledge. This looks to be the first in a series, so I’m eager to see what happens to the characters next. Recommended for fans of K-pop, especially those who liked K-POP CONFIDENTIAL.
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
by Nancy Campbell Allen
I loved going back into this world that Nancy Campbell Allen has created. It has all you could want - fairytales, steampunk, and paranormal. This book is the Cinderella story with the main characters having a rocky relationship at the start because of their respective positions. But once they put that behind them an adorable love story unfurls. The story keeps your attention has you reaching for the next page. Emmeline and Oliver have such great banter with each other that it makes you sigh and laugh at the same time. You do not need to read the previous books in order to understand and enjoy this story but, for those that do, it is fun to see the characters from the previous books. I both listened to the audio and read the book. The narrator for the audio does a remarkable job.
By Mary Soon Lee
Ten Speed Press, 2019. 131 pages. Poetry
A set of 119 haiku for each of the elements of the periodic table, these creative and witty poems are paired with imaginative line drawing on each page. The accompanying notes on each page explain how every square on the table relates to everyday life, pulling from astronomy, biology, history, physics, and (of course) chemistry. These brief, structured poems present the wonders of the universe in a very accessible and light format as science and art combine beautifully.
With a background in chemistry, I loved this quick, fun read. But don't fret if you haven't studied science since high school: you'll find a bite-sized chunk of science and history on each page that doesn't come across as pedantic. A perfect book for reading aloud or just contemplating quietly while you relax, Elemental Haiku would make a great gift for the science nerd in your life.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
by Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 2020. 320 pages. Science Fiction
I love Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which has a strong leading character that doesn’t seem to fit in, as well. But what I especially love about A Deadly Education is that the Scholomance acts as both setting and character--a magical school that is both protector, teacher, and enemy. Seamless and spectacular, each page turn blends into the next until you find yourself at the last sentence and absolutely not ready for the book to end. Readers who are looking for a unique fantasy world to dive into that is filled with both humor and horror will find A Deadly Education impossible to put down.
To Kill a Kingdom
Saturday, November 14, 2020
I’ll Be the One
by Lyla Lee
Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2020. Young Adult
Skye Shinn wants to be a K-pop star, singing and dancing her way into fame. She has the moves. She has the high notes. She has the sassy personality. The only thing she doesn’t have is the size 00 of a K-Pop star. Her entire life, her mother has told her the fat girls shouldn’t dance, or wear bright clothes, or be on television. But Skye wants to prove her and all the other haters wrong, so she auditions for an American K-pop competition called “You’re My Shining Star.” Everyone is surprised at her talent, but one judge is explicit that fat girls can’t make it in K-pop. But Skye only needs the votes of the two other judges and she is in! Skye soon becomes immersed in the auditions and meets amazing new friends and bumps into Mr. Henry Cho, himself. But, huge surprise, the glitzy Korean American star can actually dance and ends up becoming Skye’s dance partner. As the pressure of the competition builds, so do the sparks between Skye and Henry. But will Skye lose herself in the K-Pop culture and forget all the things she is fighting to prove?
This book was a hoot and a half. It’s charming. This feel good novel will have you rooting for Skye and her friends. There was one point I actually gasped out loud in. I flew through this book. The characters are relatable and everyone loves an underdog story. The book is also an #Ownvoices story, with culturally diverse characters and LGTBQIA diverse characters. But mostly it is RomCom that will melt your heart into a gooey pool of love. This book is for fans of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ and fans of reality shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol.”
Monday, November 9, 2020
Monday, November 2, 2020
By Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White
William Morrow, 2018. 408 pages. Historical Fiction
Desperate for inspiration for her next book, a struggling author opens a chest of her great-grandfather's memorabilia from the RMS Lusitania. What she discovers could change history, and she begins her quest to answers in England. Her research ties her to two women aboard the Lusitania in 1915: a Southern belle who senses something amiss in her marriage and happens upon an old flame aboard the vessel, and a thief and forger who has come aboard to pull off one last heist. The three women find themselves entangled in a web of scandal and betrayal, and they each work to unravel mysteries that will ultimately change the course of their lives.
This intricately plotted story has a bit of everything -- romance, mystery, intrigue, action -- without feeling overcrowded or haphazard. Collaborations among three authors are admittedly somewhat unusual, but Team W manages to pull off another beautiful and riveting story after their joint effort on The Forgotten Room. Each author pens the chapters from one character's point of view, which makes for a strong sense of voice, and the audio format mirrors this structure: three performers for the three main characters. Readers craving more by the same trio of authors may also enjoy their newest release, All the Ways We Said Goodbye.
Saturday, October 31, 2020
by Suzanne Palmer
DAW, 2019. 391 pages. Science Fiction.
Fergus Ferguson has a job that gets him into a lot of trouble. To some, he's a thief, a con artist. To others, a repo man. But to himself, he's a self-proclaimed finder. He travels the stars finding things for the people who hire him. Sometimes this is complicated. Luckily in the case of his most recent job, it should be simple. Steal back a state-of-the-art spaceship from a former noble turned criminal trade boss. The location, a small colony called Cernee out in the armpit of the galaxy. All he has to do is get in, decode the ship's compromised AI, and then get out. But when a cable car he's on explodes minutes after he arrives, Fergus finds himself planted in a power struggle between the colonies three factions. Using his charm, wits, and luck, he gathers the most trustworthy of the colony's people to help him. Getting the ship means solving the colony's struggle. To make matters more complicated, an alien species, known for abductions and hostile flybys, comes in for a prolonged, silent visit. Fergus, or whatever alliterated name he decides to go by, will have to decide who he is, what he cares about, and if he can really solve enough problems to both save Cernee from destruction and recover the ship he's been sent to find.
Finder is an interesting mix of comedy heists like Ocean's Eleven and interstellar found families stories like The Long Way to a Small Angry, Planet by Becky Chambers. For those looking for a more personal, emotionally focused space adventure, without the epic stakes of the common space opera, this is the book is for you.
Friday, October 30, 2020
by Adeena Sussman
Avery, 2019. 368 pages. Non-fiction
With photos and colors as vibrant as the flavors themselves, Adeena Sussman presents a wonderful perspective on Israeli cooking that is wrapped up in an easy, homestyle approach so anyone can dive in. The cookbook starts with several spice blends that provide a foundation to Middle Eastern flavors, then goes into how to apply those flavors in a variety of dishes. Recipes are tested in Sussman’s kitchen in Tel Aviv and are inspired by her experiences in the markets and with the Israeli people. Sababa means “everything is awesome,” and this cookbook embodies that attitude with every staple and story included in its pages.
I have always loved the flavors of the Middle East but getting those flavors to work in my kitchen here in Utah can be a definite challenge. Even with that concern, Sababa made some fairly difficult recipes and flavors accessible with clear steps and suggestions for how to approach the recipes. There are the expected basics—like pita bread and tahini—as well as some surprising takes on classics like a green-vegetable based shakshuka (a tomato-based egg dish) that is now my go-to shakshuka recipe. Several recipes are vegetarian or vegan and there are a few recipes that focus on minimizing food waste, like using charred eggplant skins from making baba ghanouj to color tahini.
Didn't See That Coming: Putting Life Back Together When Your World Falls Apart
by Rachel Hollis
Dey St. and imprint of William Morrow, 2020. 222 pgs. Nonfiction
Rachel Hollis is known for writing Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. In her most recent book she tackles the tough subject of how to survive when it feels like everything is falling apart. It is real and raw and told from a very vulnerable place. She wrote the original draft earlier this year. She was actually in the middle of editing this book when she announced her divorce. This was huge for a woman who has hosted marriage seminars and bases most of her workshops on dealing with the tough stuff and making things work. Rachel doesn't shy away from admitting that this goes against what a lot of people think she should do, but she is true to herself, and admits she is figuring out life, just like the rest of us.
If you have read Rachel's first two books, there is not a lot of new material in this short book. She shares a lot of the same stories and ideas, but she also addresses timely events like trying to survive and thrive during the Covid quarantine. It helps to know that all of us have some kind of struggle, either in our past, happening right now, or coming our way. I was able to learn a few helpful nuggets of information that will make facing trials a little easier. If you, or someone you know, are facing a hard time, this might be just what you need to find the strength to keep moving forward. The audio version on Libby is read by the author.
Monday, October 26, 2020
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
By Holly Jackson
Delacorte Press, 2020. 390 pages. Young Adult
For her senior project, Pippa Fitz-Amobi investigates a five-year-old murder that still affects her community. She doesn’t believe that Sal Singh murdered his girlfriend, Andie Bell, and then committed suicide the way the original investigation concludes. As her investigation progresses Pip uncovers a whole host of secrets people want to keep quiet, and soon she starts receiving notes demanding that she drop the project. Spurred on by the knowledge that she’s getting close, Pip doesn’t back down, but soon finds that the killer isn’t going to back down either.
Pip is a smart, analytical girl, determined to find the truth and clear Sal’s name. She refuses to let prejudice and privilege stand in her way on her quest to uncover the truth. Her investigation log and transcripts are included throughout the text, allowing the reader to follow along and try solving the mystery with Pip. I loved it! The story progresses smoothly, allowing tension to gradually build, but so compelling it’s hard to put down. I found myself binging this book in one sitting, staying up until 1:00 AM to finish. Highly recommended for fans of Maureen Johnson’s TRULY DEVIOUS.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
By Abbi Waxman
Berkley, 2020. 352 pgs. Fiction
Jessica Burnstein is a successful attorney whose only daughter is about to leave for college. They travel to the East Coast together for a college tour where she's hoping Emily will get a sense of the direction she'd like to go in, and she hopes that voluntarily traveling with a teenager won't be as crazy as it sounds. Emily is feeling all the pressure of needing to start her life soon and have it all together. But she doesn't know what she wants to do, and her lack of direction isn't helped by growing tensions at her school. Jessica knows that these final years with her daughter are the end of an era, and she hopes they will be able to share a few more important memories together before her daughter leaves home.
Jessica's feelings and impressions as a working mother trying to balance her career and raise a child may hit pretty close to home for any readers in the same boat, and everyone will be able to relate to Emily's angst over trying to figure out what to do with her life when she's not really sure what she wants, especially as the jumping off point draws closer and closer. Waxman does an apt job of describing a time of tensions and hopeful anxiety that many go through as they transition into new stages of life. Although Waxman typically incorporates romances into her novels, this book focuses instead on the story of a mother and her daughter as they face new horizons together.
Friday, October 16, 2020
by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Vintage Books, 1831, 231 pages, General Fiction
Obsessed with discovering “the cause of generation and life,” science scholar Victor Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts. However, when his creature comes to life, Frankenstein recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness and abandons his creation. Tormented by loneliness and shunned by society, the originally docile creature begins to harbor a horrible grudge against his creator, and proceeds to murder the people Frankenstein holds most dear.
This fascinating novel, which is lauded as both one of the first horror stories and one of the first science fiction stories, has undergone many different retellings over the years, but none can match the nuance of the original. Shelley’s beautiful, flowery Victorian language might make the story drag in some places; however, for the most part, the added detail gives the reader space to think about the consequences of Frankenstein’s actions. This is a story about the ethics of scientific studies, the value of human life, the effects of alienation and isolation, and our responsibility to have compassion for each other.
Reading this book at our current time in history also made me consider angles I might not have considered before. I think everyone can sympathize even more with the mental health effects both Frankenstein and his monster encounter as they experience isolation and loneliness.
I listened to an audiobook version of this story, read by the unparalleled Simon Vance. His reading of Shelley’s lush prose added an extra layer of atmosphere that really helped capture the mood.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
By Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. 313 pages. Young Adult
Nannerl Mozart is a young protégé at the clavier and wishes to be remembered forever. When her younger brother, Wolfgang, starts learning to play, it’s discovered that he too is a protégé. When Wolfgang starts to outshine Nannerl due to his young age and gender, she fears she will be forgotten. Then one day she meets the mysterious Hyacinth from the Kingdom of Back. He promises her that he can make her wish come true—as long as she helps him.
This is a moving novel based on the real-life Mozart children, but where they are influenced by the happenings of a magical faerie realm. I want to give Nannerl a hug. As a character she evolves throughout the novel, and must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to make her dreams come true. Then there’s the innocent and kind-hearted Wolfgang. He loves his sister dearly, and is troubled by the restrictions she faces just because of her gender. I often hear about “couple goals,” but Nannerl and Wolfgang are “sibling goals.” For the well-researched story, the deep relationships, and the excellent character development, I would easily recommend this for fans of historical fantasy.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
by John Scalzi
Tor, 2005. 316 pages. Science Fiction.
John Perry, age 75, begins his new life by being declared legally dead and joining the space marines. Why did he do it? For a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is the Colonial Defense Force's (CDF) centuries old promise that they can make the old young again. Joining the CDF means leaving Earth for good, fighting the wars to save humanity out there in space for a period of 2-10 years, and then retire to a colony with beaches. But as he and the friends he makes among the other senior citizen recruits discover, being made young again isn't what they thought it would be, it's better.
So starts the saga of the Old Man's War, where senior citizens protect the human race among the stars. Scalzi does a great job of incorporating a wise-with-years character into a young, overly capable body to humorous effect, all the while asking deep philosophical questions about relationships how the family we gather to us can mean just as much to us as the families we are born into.
For those who enjoy series like The Expanse by James A. Corey, but want something with a little more humor and military science fiction added in, this book is for you!
Friday, October 9, 2020
Thursday, October 8, 2020
By Lindsay Ellis
St. Martin's Press, 2020. 384 pgs. Young Adult Sci-Fi
It's 2007, and Cora Sabino is trying to lay low from the media frenzy created by her whistleblower father. Though he's in hiding, his organization has leaked new evidence proving the government's knowledge of extraterrestrial life. Though Cora doesn't want to get involved, she may not be able to avoid it as the mysteries surrounding her family circle closer, until late one night when a strange presence lurks outside in the dark. Cora must decide whether or not to finally take matters into her own hands.
Some may be familiar with Lindsay Ellis, popular Youtuber, although this book is completely unrelated to her video essays. In this book, Ellis has created an interesting alien culture and sets all of the action within the familiar tensions of 2007 US society. I found the main character to be a little too often swept along by events and a little too infrequently the driver of her own fate, but her "close encounters" were a fun read overall. Recommended for any fans of YA alien fiction.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Friday, October 2, 2020
by Randall Munroe
Riverhead Books, 2019. 307 pages. Nonfiction
There's more than one way to solve every problem. There's a right way, a wrong way, and a way that is so tremendously wrong that no one would ever attempt it. This book is guide to that third approach to many of life's basic tasks. The creator of the popular website xkcd.com and former NASA roboticist Randall Munroe provides outlandishly absurd solutions (grounded in real-life science and technology) to everyday obstacles; learn how to build a lava moat around your house (your HOA may not approve), how to cross a river by boiling it, and how to get to your appointments on time by destroying the Moon.
Like Munroe's previous book "What If?", "How to" invites readers to explore the furthest reaches of what is physically possible. The math can sometimes get a bit dense, but Munroe does a good job keeping the tone conversational and accessible for the nonexpert; for example, consider this quote:
Without shielding, spacecraft break up in the atmosphere. When large spacecraft enter the atmosphere without a heat shield, between 10 percent and 40 percent of their mass usually makes it to the surface, and the rest melts or evaporates. This is why heat shields are so popular.
Clever infographics and illustrations help the reader visualize the preposterous ideas that Munroe suggests, showcasing the science and technology that underlie our everyday routines; bear in mind that you'll miss out on these if you choose the audiobook over physical or eBook formats. Perfect for those familiar with the physical sciences and for those familiar with life on Earth (or Mars).
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Friday, September 25, 2020
Monday, September 21, 2020
Forget Me Not
Friday, September 18, 2020
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Vying for the Viscount
By Kristi Ann Hunter
Bethany House, 2020. 348 pgs. Romance
Hudson has been raised in India his entire life to hide from an uncle who will do anything for the family title. His father has taught Hudson all the things he would need to know to someday return to England and become a Viscount. His parents died while in India and when Hudson learns of his grandfather's death, he makes the long journey back to England. He thinks he is prepared for society but finds his education very lacking.
Bianca Snowley has found refuge in riding horses at the neighboring stable for years. One day she is startled to see a strange man in the stables and after defending the horses, discovers that he is the new owner. For reasons of her own, she takes an interest in the newest bachelor in town but in a turn of events, they agree to help each other find eligible spouses. Bianca finds herself coaching Hudson on the basics of dancing and courtship, all the time harboring a growing attraction to him.
I really enjoyed this new series starter by Kristi Ann Hunter. Hudson and Bianca are fun characters that must decide if they are going to go along with what is expected by society, or if they are willing to do the best thing for each one of them. I was also surprised how much I enjoyed learning about horses and horse racing since horses are not something I typically take an interest in. I have read a lot of Regency romance and I liked this story line of someone who is utterly unprepared for Society and all the silliness that goes on but is willing to reach out to new friends for help.
Friday, September 11, 2020
By Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 662 pages. Young Adult
When Bella met Edward, her world was set on a path where everything changed in less than a moment. We followed Bella’s thoughts and feelings in Twilight, but what was going on behind Edward’s eyes? The long-awaited Midnight Sun shows their iconic origin story from Edward’s much darker perspective. Edward’s inner struggle is brought to light as he wrestles with what he believes is right and what he discovers he must have.
While mirroring the events of Twilight, Midnight Sun also illuminates the mystery of many behind-the-scene moments and character backstories only mentioned in the series. Delving into the depths of Edward’s mind and discovering how close every encounter came to ruin was definitely worth the all-nighter. Whether read alone or along with the series, this is a fascinating and engaging companion to the classic romance that rewrote a genre.
Saturday, September 5, 2020
By Stephan Lee
Point, 2020. 323 pages. Young Adult
Candace Park is trying do what’s expected of her. She attends a good school, plays viola, and appreciates her Korean heritage, but Candance wants to sing, and she’s good at it. Encouraged by her best friends Imani and Ethan, she secretly auditions for one of Korea’s biggest entertainment companies. When she’s invited to come train in Seoul, Candace must convince her overly protective parents to let her train for the summer, just to see if she can do it. Trainee life is difficult, and only a handful of the 49 girls will debut, but Candace is determined to be one of them, even when the odds are stacked against her.
The K-pop industry is known for glitzy performances and near perfect idols, but we see behind the curtain through Candace’s eyes at the hardships they face. This book tackles a wide range of issues such as racism, feminism, beauty expectations, unfair labor practices, classism, immigration, and privilege, all with the backdrop of K-pop. Candace is a spunky protagonist with a harrowing journey before her, and even with such heavy hitting issues Lee keeps the pace moving and the book was hard to put down. I would easily recommend this book to fans of Korean entertainment, but also anyone looking for a witty, determined protagonist ready to subvert expectations.