Tuesday, June 30, 2020

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt
by Kara Cooney
National Geographic, 2018. 399 pages. Nonfiction.

 Throughout history women seldom ruled, but in ancient Egypt women repeatedly reigned as the head of state. Egyptologist Kara Cooney examines this phenomenon of repeated female rulers over the course of Egypt’s long history, and delves into the cultural conditions that allowed for women to hold the highest position in the land. Through a close look at the lives of six female rulers, a fascinating story of the rise and fall of Egyptian dynasties unfolds.

One of this book’s main points is women rule differently than men. Author Kara Cooney really hits home on this point, and demonstrates these differences not only in the way women ruled Egypt, but also uses contemporary political figures. Cooney makes some interesting conclusions on the subject, and carefully backs her reasoning and assertions, while also acknowledging when her conclusions are controversial among Egyptologists. Overall it felt well researched and cited within the text and made for a fascinating read. I’d recommend for anyone interested in Egyptian history, women’s history, or just looking for an interesting nonfiction book.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes
Sara Raasch HarperCollins, 2014. 422 pages. Young Adult

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

This book was so much fun to read and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Meira is a fun, strong character to follow as she struggles with wanting to do anything for her fallen kingdom but also wanting to live her own life. The story is beautifully woven, leaving breadcrumbs that make you keep coming back. I loved the idea of 4 kingdoms that represent the 4 seasons and the type of people and commerce each season is known for, very creative. A very fun young adult read.


Friday, June 26, 2020

The Herbalist’s Healing Kitchen: Use the Power of Food to Cook Your Way to Better Health

The Herbalist’s Healing Kitchen: Use the Power of Food to Cook Your Way to Better Health
By Devon Young
Page Street, 2019. 192 pages. Nonfiction

For those looking to cook their way into better health, The Herbalist’s Healing Kitchen provides tips, tricks, and techniques for bringing healing herbs into recipes and menus. Every recipe is categorized by flavor profile (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and/or pungent), as well as by what type of healing each recipe promotes. With beautiful pictures and easy-to-access formatting, readers can skim for recipes or dive deeper into the theory behind flavor profiles, detoxification, and healthful cooking. 

This cookbook has a bite-sized and delicious approach to learning about cooking for healing. Ingredients are fairly approachable, with nothing too specialized or difficult to find (with a few exceptions). There are several vegetarian dishes, with many dishes that can easily be altered for vegan diets, as well as including recipes welcome for keto or other dietary needs. With a wide range of recipes from snacks to dessert, fermented to fresh, I recommend this versatile cookbook for anyone looking to incorporate healthy ingredients with purpose or for those looking to try something deliciously innovative. 


Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death

Will My Cat Eat my Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death
by Caitlin Doughty W.W. Norton & Company, 2019. 222 pages. Nonfiction.

If you are a mortician and a funeral director, you may get a lot of questions about death. Caitlin Doughty certainly does. But she never expected that the most interesting questions would come not from grieving adults, but from the curious minds of children. This book is a charming collection of Doughty’s hilarious answers to actual questions asked of her by tiny mortals. Will my cat (or dog) eat me if I die? What happens when someone dies on an airplane? Can I keep my friend’s skull as a keepsake?

This book is informative, slightly irreverent, and laugh-out-loud funny. Each chapter is short and easily digestible, so it makes for a great book on the go. Even though this is found in the adult nonfiction section, Caitlin Doughty wrote the book with children in mind, so I found it to be a great book to read aloud with my children. A fun and easy read that will give you a lot to talk about around the dinner table—or maybe you’ll want to talk about it somewhere else.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Valley of Dreams

Valley of Dreams
By Sarah M. Eden
Mirror Press, 2020. 296 pgs. Historical Romance

The newest book in the Hope Springs series tells the story of Patrick O'Connor. He is the brother everyone believed died in the battle of Gettysburg ten years ago. He has his reasons for not telling his family that he actually survived the battle, while his brother Grady did not. He has suffered years of loneliness and grief and a demon that is too big for him to battle alone. In a moment of deep darkness he decides to reunite with his family in Hope Springs, WY.

Eliza Porter is a young widow who is also traveling to Hope Springs with her young daughter in the hopes of finding a better life than she had as a factory worker in New York City. Eliza and Patrick have an instant connection, even though Patrick tries to push everyone away. Their journey has lighter moments, but they have to travel some dark roads for Patrick to find healing and hope.

I love the O'Connor family! This is the fifth book in the series and, while each book focuses on a different family member, the characters you come to know and love from previous books play into the newest story line. This romance isn't all fluff and good feelings. There are real struggles and darker plot lines but it makes the good times so much sweeter.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back
By Adrienne Young
Wednesday Books, 2019. 327 pages. Young Adult

When she’s just a young girl, Tova is found washed ashore by the Svell. Now at 18, memories of her own clan have long since faded, but prolific tattoos mark her as a Truthtongue, someone who can cast the ruin stones and divine the future. Although the Svell fear her, they also realize they can use her abilities to their advantage. With a clan war looming, the Svell think Tova will foresee their victory, but interpreting the future isn’t quite as straightforward, or as promising, as the Svell want to believe. Faced with a choice between life and honor, Tova’s decision will have dramatic consequences for both clans.

Though Tova was raised by the Svell, the constant prejudice she faces weighs her down. She’s been subservient for so long that her own life and personality have been stifled, and as a character she struggles to become her own person. The story’s perspective changes between Tova and Halvard, the young leader of the Nadhir. The paths of both characters cross in strange ways, and the war between their people is gruesome. Still, both characters rise up to discover their own place in the world. This is an interesting historical fantasy with the feel of a Viking world. This is technically a companion novel to Sky in the Deep, but it’s not necessary to read one before the other. They work well as stand alones.


Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Lion Forge, 2019. 256 pages. Young Adult Graphic Novel.

Nova (she/her) is not your ordinary teen. She is a witch, well, she’s in training. She helps out at her grandmothers’ store where they lend out magic books and generally monitor their New England town for any supernatural occurrences.

One night, Nova walks by the woods and stumbles on a werewolf fighting a ghost horse. Not only that, but when the wolf changes, it turns out to be Nova’s best friend from childhood, Tam (they/them). Nova, her grandmothers, the neighbors, and even their cat set out to find out why the ghost horse is following Tam. But will what’s coming for Tam come for them all?

 Nova Huang is a young female protagonist I can love unabashedly. She is strong, empowered (quite literally), and kind. She does not seek out adventures, they come to her because she is helping people who are already in trouble. She is unafraid of figuring out what is going on with Tam, but also gives Tam space and asks for permission before she discusses Tam’s life with anyone. There need to be more people like Nova Huang.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Cover image for The ten thousand doors of January
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
By Alix E. Harrow
Redhook Books, 2019, 374 pages, Historical/Fantasy Fiction

In the early 1900s, January Scaller, a biracial teenager, isn’t sure where she belongs. Her mother died when she was a baby, and her father travels the world, acquiring precious artifacts for Mr. Locke, a wealthy man whose hobby is collecting rare treasures from around the world. January spends her days in a corner of Mr. Locke’s house, mostly forgotten. When her father goes missing, January is devastated, and she only finds solace in a book called The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which contains a tale of love and travel between worlds that’s hard to believe. Despite Mr. Locke’s active disapproval, January becomes determined to find out what happened to her father, which leads her on an adventure she would have never had the courage to embark on before.

This book is a perfect blend of historical fiction, magical realism, fantasy, adventure, and romance. (A bit like the beloved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, although that book is more obviously a fantasy novel than The Ten Thousand Doors is.) I read this book at the same time as I read Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea, and I was surprised at how similar these two books were, although The Starless Sea has a contemporary setting. Both books are about people who find solace in reading, and then discover secret worlds behind ordinary doorways and go on to have amazing adventures. Both books also tell multiple stories, switching between the adventures of the main character, and the story that the main character is currently reading. The setting and writing style of The Ten Thousand Doors makes this book feel more like literary fiction than The Starless Sea, which has more of a modern vibe. I unreservedly loved both books, and highly recommend them both.


Monday, June 1, 2020

The Proposal

The Proposal
by Jasmine Guillory
Jove, 2018. 325 pages. Romance

A Dodgers game becomes extremely awkward for freelance writer Nikole Paterson where her actor boyfriend proposes unexpectedly. Of course she says no: he didn't even spell her name right on the Jumbotron. But dealing with a stadium of disappointed fans is more overwhelming than it would seem. Just in the nick of time, handsome stranger Carlos Ibarra and his sister show up, pretending to be Nik's friends, and whisk her away from the camera crew. Carlos and Nik's friendship withstands the social media backlash of the failed proposal, and knowing that Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, Nik starts a fun rebound relationship with him. But as it evolves into something more, they have to learn where to draw the line.

One of my favorite aspects about this NY Times Bestseller was how there wasn't much plot to get mixed up in. That might sound like a negative, but the overall story mostly follows Carlos and Nik's relationship, and they're so cute together that it's hard to get upset about it. The diverse cast of characters is likable and memorable (even minor ones), not to mention realistic. If you're a fan of modern romance, this one's perfect for you.


The Poppy War

The Poppy War
by R. F. Kuang
Harper Voyager, 2018. 530 pages. Fantasy.

Inspired by the bloody history of China's 20th century, R. F. Kuang brings an a unique tale of fantasy where gods inhabit the bodies of those who seek them out. For Rin, a war orphan whose been forced to work with her aunt's opium business, the gods are the furthest thing from her mind. All she wants to do is escape marrying a man triple her age. Do to that, she goes to the extreme and finds a way to test into the most prestigious war school in the country. What starts as simply a journey of running away, leads Rin to face the worse prejudices of her country, discovering magic through altered states of mind, learning of that magic's dangers, and choosing destruction over safety for her world.

For those that like Ken Liu's Grace of Kings and N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy, this book starts a strong fantasy trilogy that does not shy away from showing the horrors of war.