Friday, July 31, 2020


By Jennifer Donnelly
Scholastic Press, 2019. 352 pages. Young Adult

This is the story of Cinderella's stepsister Isabelle, who cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella's shoe.  When her deception is discovered, Isabelle is cast aside in her shame, while Cinderella heads off for her happily ever after.  But Isabelle's story is only just beginning.  Isabelle's life has been one in which her lack of beauty cost her happiness and hampered her spirit, and she is far from perfect.  But the literal embodiment of Chance is on her side, fighting to give her an edge over Fate.  Armed not with a pumpkin-turned carriage and rags-turned-ballgown, but with gifts befitting her fire and bravery, it is up to Isabelle to save those she loves and snatch herself from Fate's grasp.

Isabelle is a flawed character who must overcome her own shortcomings as much as the cruel hand life has dealt her.  She also must come to terms with the life expected of her as a woman in 18th-century France, and the life she dreams of, unfettered by any restriction.  This story was so imaginative and unusual that I couldn't help but be pulled along.  Recommended for fans of "fractured fairy tales" and those who want to cheer on the underdog.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Talk Nerdy to Me

Talk Nerdy to Me
by Tiffany Schmidt
Harry N. Abrams, 2020. 336 pgs. Young Adult Fiction 

Eliza Gordon-Fergus is excellent at following the rules. Her scientist parents dictate and track everything in her life, from how many hours of sleep she needs to what clubs and classes she’s in. When she reads Frankenstein for English class, she starts to feel more like an experiment than a loved daughter. When she asks a classmate, Curtis Cavendish, to trade her for Anne of Green Gables he agrees under one condition: she beats him at the science fair. As they spend more time together, Eliza realizes she might be in over her head because Curtis makes her want to break all of the rules. 

This is the third book in the Bookish Boyfriends series, and was my absolute favorite. Eliza seems to have everything going for her; she’s beautiful, smart, and has famous parents, but she feels lonely and lost. The growth that Eliza and her parents show resonated and made them more likeable and worthier of a happy ending. She is able to see herself in Anne Shirley, but also realizes her own personal strength and weaknesses. Curtis is funny, sweet, and so understanding with Eliza, and teaches her the value of non-scientific attributes, like patience, imagination, and tolerance. This is a great read for anyone who loves books, cute romance, or strong characters. 


Monday, July 20, 2020

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice 
 by Terry Tempest Williams
Sarah Crichton Books, 2012. 208 pages. Nonfiction.

When Diane Tempest was dying of breast cancer, she bequeathed her journals to her daughter Terry Tempest Williams. When Williams found the fifty-four volumes, she discovered that each and every one of them was blank. In fifty-four meditations on voice, Williams explores what it means to have a voice, especially for women. Is there more than just being a wife and a mother for women to write about? Why were her mother’s journals blank? What does that mean for Williams? In her lyrical style, made famous by her beloved classic Refuge, Williams comes to terms with her mother’s silence.

 I could not put this book down. I was drawn in by the shock of those blank journals and the discussion of voice. For Williams, self-expression is always tied to the land, and this volume is true to form. I was deeply moved by the first-person narrative of how the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was formed because a small group of writers decided to fight for the land that they love.

This book will touch those who are interested in mother-daughter relationships, those interested in the discussion of voice, and those who are interested in environmental writing. With such variation in subject, there will be something to please every reader.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Here and Now and Then

Cover image for Here and now and then
Here and Now and Then
by Mike Chen
Mira, 2019, 326 pages, Science Fiction

When a mission goes wrong, time travel agent Kin Stewart finds himself stranded in the 1990s. Unsure of what else to do and suffering from amnesia, Kin decides to start over and eventually settles down with a job in computer security and a wonderful wife and daughter. When a fellow time travel agent finds him eighteen years later, Kin is shocked to discover that he belongs in 2142, and that he has a fiancée waiting for him there. Forced back into 2142, Kin must try to remember what his life was like before he left. But when Kin learns that his sudden disappearance has jeopardized his daughter’s life, Kin is determined to do whatever he can to fix the past.

While Chen writes science fiction, and the explanations of the rules of time travel seem solid, I think people will enjoy his books more for his skill in writing relationships and in character building. The ties Chen creates between fathers and daughters are especially well done. Kin’s drive to do whatever he can to save his daughter was heartwarming and urgent, and really made me root for him to succeed. The story starts out slowly as the different time periods and rules of time travel are explained, but the ending is a fast-paced action novel that had me at the edge of my seat.

Those who love character-driven time travel books like The Time Traveler’s Wife or How to Stop Time will enjoy Here and Now and Then.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Bromance Book Club

Cover image for The bromance book club

The Bromance Book Club 
by Lyssa Kay Adams
Jove, 2019. 339 pgs. Romance

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club. Professional baseball player Gavin Scott realizes that he has really messed up when his wife Thea asks for a divorce. He has been so busy with his career and their young twins that he hasn’t noticed how unhappy Thea is and how much of her life she has been faking it. He will do anything to win her back, including getting help from a secret romance-reading book club of Nashville’s top alpha men. With lots of mistakes and challenges along the way, will Gavin and Thea ever forgive each other and fall in love again?

I was initially draw to this book because I found the title so amusing, but the story and characters were so enjoyable and realistic that I couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for the next books in the series. The group of guys is diverse, funny, and not afraid to discuss emotions, toxic masculinity, and pumpkin spice lattes. They are also crude and competitive and egotistical. There are passages from the historical romance book scattered throughout, which was fun for fans of Regency romance. Gavin and Thea’s story develops so slowly that it feels realistic and you want them to succeed. There is strong language and mild sexual content, but this is a fun, contemporary read with likeable characters and a great bromance.


Monday, July 13, 2020

The Dark Matter of Mona Starr

The Dark Matter of Mona Starr 
by Laura Lee Gulledge
Amulet Books, 2020. 180 pages. YA COMICS

Mona Starr feels all alone. Her best friend just moved to Hawaii and she finds it hard to make friends with other teens. Not only that, her depression has started to take over her life. She calls her depression her Matter, like Dark Matter. It colors all of her interactions with her family and other people at school. Through therapy, art, writing, and music, Mona is able to start to understand her Matter and learn how to manage it better.

This is a really important book. Not only does it address the physical and emotional sides of depression, but it shows them visually through pictures. As a visual learner myself, this book really helped me understand Mona’s experiences as a teen with deep depression. Mona’s Matter is shown as an inky black substance that follows and flows around her. Even though the topic is pretty heavy, the writing is crisp and hopeful. When Mona feels better about things her Matter turns into yellow stars. 

As someone who manages depression and anxiety, I really wish that I had this book when I was younger. It really helps to give words to the feelings and physical symptoms of depression. It isn’t pedantic, the narrative is fun and fast paced. I was drawn in by the art and Mona’s sweet and quirky personality. This book is great for those managing depression and for those who have ever had to solve a big problem in their lives. It is super relatable.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Tempests and Slaughter

Tempests and Slaughter (Numair Chronicles, #1)

by Tamora Pierce

Random House, 2018. 464 pages. Young Adult

Tempests and Slaughter centers on a young boy who wants very much to enjoy his time growing up without any notice whatsoever, but his unusual magic has other ideas. Following the adventures of young Arram and two misfit mages, Tamora Pierce builds a narrative of three unlikely friends whose bonds are strengthened by weathering the storm of secrets surrounding them.

I remember pulling books from Tamora Pierce off the shelves during middle school and her stories are still exciting to read, even so many years later. Tempests and Slaughter is a book that stands well on its own and is in good company with her other series. I am very much looking forward to rereading this until the next book comes out. Packed with action and surprises, I would recommend this book for any teen or adult reader craving fantasy and fun.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Becky Chambers
Harper Voyager, 2016. 443 pages. Science Fiction.

Desperate to leave Mars behind, Rosemary Harper takes a job on the aging ship, the Wayfarer. Rosemary signs on to be their clerk. And while her job is mundane, the crew is not. The crew of the Wayfarer, made up of four different species, four humans with backgrounds just as different as one species is from another, and an AI with a burgeoning sentience, punch holes in spacetime to make interplanetary and interstellar highways for small ships. When the captain takes on a job that will set up the future of his entire crew, what he doesn't know is that he is putting himself and his crew in between forces that have already drastically altered Rosemary's life as well as in the midst of a cultural war.

Offering a meditation on how families can be created through shared experiences and how different cultures can coexist despite their drastic differences, Chambers the space opera genre and gives it a core of family drama, filling a universe with characters that feel like real people. For people who want the action packed space operas like Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, but want a down-to-earth component that provides a breath of fresh air in between tense sections of the book.


Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story
By Sarah Dessen
Balzer + Bray, 2019. 440 pages. Young Adult

With her father leaving the country and her summer plans falling through, Emma Saylor Payne is stuck with nowhere to go. She ends up at North Lake, staying the summer with the grandmother she hasn’t seen since her mother’s funeral. As she reconnects with old family and friends, Emma Saylor realizes that there was far more to her mother’s life than she previously realized, and that North Lake has some major socio-economic divides she was previously unaware of. Not only does Emma Saylor find a spirit of her mother about the place, but she also starts to rediscover parts of herself she forgot existed.

This was such a charming story of self-discovery and empathy. Emma Saylor starts with such a narrow view of her mother’s family, but as she hears other people’s stories, and learns more about her own story, she realizes her mother’s life wasn’t quite as black and white as she originally believed. The deep character growth is exactly what I want in a novel like this. The side characters are delightful, and the setting feels realistic. Overall a wonderful contemporary read I could easily recommend.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2020. 517 pages. Young Adult

The Tenth Annual Hunger Games are about to begin, and Coriolanus Snow has been chosen as a mentor. A win in these Games could bring glory to the Snow name, which saw better days before the war; the family depends on the slim chance that Coriolanus's tribute outlasts the other twenty-three. But the odds are not in his favor: humiliatingly, he's been assigned the female tribute from destitute District 12. He'll soon see how intricately interwoven their fates are: both inside the arena in a fight to the death, and outside the arena as the desire to follow the rules competes with the necessity to survive.

This newest installment of the Hunger Games saga has received some heavy criticism since it's publishing earlier this year. It certainly has a more philosophical feel when compared to the previous plot-driven novels. It goes above and beyond the typical villain origin story, exploring morally grey areas and the importance of following the rules, rather than presenting the villain in as a sympathetic character. To be honest, I didn't read it as voraciously as the original trilogy because it wasn't as much of a thrill ride. But I don't think it's bad for a book to make you think as you read it.



Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold
By Stephen Fry
Chronicle Books, 2019. 349 pages. Nonfiction

The Greek myths are among some of the most enduring stories in the history of human kind. Persisting through the ages as classic literature and theater as well as countless retellings and inspiration behind art of all kinds. The incomparable Stephen Fry takes these beloved tales into his expert hands and spins them into a novel-like narrative. Capturing all the hilarity and drama of these tales of war, violence, lovers, betrayals, cosmic beings and the creation of all, and even more laughs, MYTHOS is a masterful tribute to and expertly told collection of the classic Greek myths.

I love mythology, and I love Stephen Fry (actor, comedian, all around fantastic person). I like to think that Stephen and I would be great friends, geeking out about all sorts of topics, and this book just proved my theory. Impeccably researched, as one should expect from his enthusiastically curious personality, Stephen Fry has taken already timeless and enduring stories and made them shine even brighter. From the most hard-core mythology connoisseur to complete newbies, this witty, smart, and absolutely hilarious book will delight and satisfy readers. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook, which is read by author Stephen Fry for the full experience of his signature wit. Not many can say "asinine auditory appendages" and "gut-stuffed gastronome" and not sound at all pretentious. MYTHOS had me erupting with all kinds of laughter from start to finish - and I mean giggles, tittering, snickering, guffawing, cackling, howling, and even crying with pure joy.