Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Great Alone

Worth. The. Hype. Honestly, I liked this even better than Kristin Hannah's, "The Nightingale," and that book was a masterpiece! I zipped through this one, unable to put it down. It was gripping from the beginning and I know that this is a book I will return to. Set in the remote Alaskan wilderness, this coming of age story features a young girl trying to navigate her parent's stormy relationship and make friends of her own (a hard task when there are only about 30 people in town). Leni's father came back from Vietnam a changed man, prone to violent outbursts, restlessness, and crazy ideas. When his buddy from Vietnam wills him a cabin up in Alaska, he packs his family into their VW van and moves them across county into the great alone. They are woefully under-prepared for their first winter and that summer the townsfolk comes together to help out the newcomers. Little does Leni's family realize how long the winters are and how short daylight is; Leni's father mood shifts ever darker. Despite the darkness in her father their is beauty everywhere: in their new neighbors, the rugged wilderness, the value of hard work and borrowed books. Beautifully written; this love letter to Alaska will resonate with readers and have readers rooting for Leni. Tears may fall, dreams may be born, anything is possible.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

I Know You Rider

This isn't a low score because this memoir is about abortion - it's just that it wasn't as deep or moving as I thought it might be. It just kinda slogged along with no clear direction. I love memoirs that are told via graphic novel so I picked up I Know You Rider and had high hopes. It was very slow paced and the illustrations sometimes made it confusing to tell who was who and I just didn't click with the story. It's brave to put your story out there like the author did - especially about such a polarizing topic - but it was just hard to engage or care about the story. Which I feel bad about because it's a memoir. I would love to try out more graphic novels by this author - this one just wasn't it for me. 

Nine Perfect Strangers

This Liane Moriarity book is so over the top and outrageous but you can't put it down. Even though the plot got more and more ridiculous as the story progressed, I LOVED the characters. Nine people decide that they are stressed and need a lifestyle change, so they sign up for a ten day cleanse at Tranquility House. It's a gorgeous estate in the middle of nowhere and participants will be treated to divine meals, massages, nature hikes, star-gazing, and meditation. The nine participants (all strangers) soon discover that there was a lot on the agenda that they most certainly had not signed up for. Silence, daily blood tests, fasting, and more unorthodox methods keep popping up. Soon the strangers kind of bond together as they try to get through their weird cleanse in one piece. There is a romance author who will soon be out of work, an ex football player, a family trying to cope with loss, a mom trying to rediscover herself after her husband took off with a new trophy wife, a young couple in dire need of counseling, and a devilishly handsome gay lawyer. Full of fun, a nice beach read.

A Bad Day for Sunshine

Sunshine Vikram has moved back to her childhood hometown with her daughter in tow. She just recently won an election for sheriff even though she never threw her name in the race. Sun has her parents to thank for that and for the new "guesthouse" they built for her and her daughter. Her parents are devious and the peer pressure is real. Sun loves working in law enforcement but there is a lot of bad history in Del Sol so she is nervous to come back. Thankfully her best friend works in the police department so she's surrounded by friendly faces. Unfortunately, on her first day on the job all hell breaks loose. A teenage girl goes missing, a woman crashes her car, a prized rooster goes missing, and Ari's first day in her new high school is awful. What more can go wrong? A little over the top, funny at times, and lots of tangled threads. I'm not sure if I will continue the series but it was ok. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Sisters in Arms

I love reading books that educate me on real history, especially history that I never learned in school. Sisters in Arms is a fictional account of two young Black women who join the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corp during World War ! Not only do Grace and Eliza have to face prejudice from the white soldiers they are stationed with they have to face harsh criticism from their families. Grace is a piano prodigy but after she fails her Juilliard audition and her brother dies in battle - she needs to escape from her overbearing mother. Eliza wants her own byline and is sick of covering the society beat at her father's newspaper - she knows she can do more with her life. Joining the first unit of Black WAAC allows these two women to prove to themselves and the world that they are capable and that they are worthy. Sisters in Arms is the story of their friendship, their trials and tribulations, and the prejudice they faced. Wonderful storytelling. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Survive the Night

When the campus killer's third victim is Charlie's roommate - she's decided she's had enough of college life. She can't finish the week, let alone the semester. Since her parent's untimely death Charlie has refused to drive so she needs to find a ride back home to Ohio. It's 1991 and public transportation leaves a lot to be desired so she decides to rely on the ride share board. Josh Baxter, a slightly older and nice looking guy, offers to drive her home if she splits the gas money. Easy peasy. She tells herself that the second she smells something fishy she'll bail - but he seems like a nice guy. As they begin their evening drive home, Charlie immediately gets suspicious - he's starting to lie about things. Or is he? Charlie has an over active imagination and sometimes the lines between reality and her mind get blurred. Can she trust him or will she even survive the night. Fast paced and suspenseful. Fun, but not even close to Riley Sager's best work. I even guessed one of the twists which was disappointing. 

Whispers and the Roars

A fast paced and dark romance that explores mental health, abuse, trust, and love. Twelve years ago Kady sent away the one boy she loved more than life itself. She didn't want her sickness oozing all over him and she wanted him to escape to college and a new life. But now he's back and she's not sure if she can afford to let him back into her life. What if it's too painful? What if he's horrified of the woman that she's become? Yeo looks past all that - he dedicated his twelve years in medical school to her and will do whatever it takes to win her back. He doesn't care about his family's low opinion of her, or the rumors around town, or the weird looks she gets. Kady is worth all that and more. Her past is dark and twisted and getting her re-adjusted to the light is going to be difficult. A BIG twist towards the end that explains soo much. Dark, twisty, and redeeming.

The Startup Wife

Interesting and timely concept. When a young couple and their best friend decide to create a platform for people to create their own rituals - essentially replacing religion. It's an uphill battle but from the start they get some really committed people who are sold on the idea. As it finally gains steam it threatens to become the most popular social media platform in the world. But at what cost? Asha's husband, the face of the company, is viewed as a Messiah while Asha is regularly overlooked or forgotten. The more successful they become the more passionate they become about their vision and their company - everything is going better than they ever could have imagined. Or is it? I didn't love any of the characters although I thought the app was intriguing and ridiculous. Neat concept, but I wouldn't read the book again. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Soulmate Equation

Quick and adorable - no one writes romantic fluff like Christina Lauren. When two polar opposites are matched together using DNA technology they can't believe it. Is the science wrong? Unfortunately for them it's not, GeneticAlly gave them the highest recorded score EVER - a 98! In the history of the company they've only gotten three other matches over 90 - and to think that the founder and lead scientist of the company is one the matches. What are the odds? River is willing to go on a few dates to experience first hand if the science is true, but single mom, Jess, is less sure. The company offers to give her a stipend each month to go on dates with River and give a relationship a shot - but she's not even sure if she even wants a relationship. Jess has her kid to think about, but really she's just a chicken. Will the science prove true - are they a match? Or is this all just a publicity stunt. Charming, steamy, and funny. A great romcom!

Monday, July 19, 2021

That Summer

Not as light and fluffy as I was hoping it would be (I can't believe I just said that!) but still a good beach read. That Summer centers on two Dianas - one who is struggling in her marriage and connecting to her fourteen year old daughter - the other who has a secret that could tear everything apart. When Daisy (real name Diana) keeps getting wrong emails intended for another Diana - she strikes up an email conversation with her email doppelganger. Since they aren't that far apart - they decide to meet up for drinks in New York City and strike up an instant friendship. It's so natural and easy going - both women have a hard time making friends and it's such a coincidence that they've found each other. But is it? Told alternately between both women's pasts - That Summer is a look at female friendships, duplicity, passion, and intrigue. The twist isn't super shocking if you're used to reading between the lines - but it is compulsively readable. Very timely. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

An Amish Surprise

The second book in the Berlin Bookmobile series is just as charming as the first. The only constant that carries over from book one is the librarian, Sarah Anne Miller. She starts to fall for one of her library patrons and agrees to go on a date with him - she hasn't been on the dating scene since before she was married and she's very nervous. Some of her library patrons are also having some difficulties. Miriam and Calvin have tried for years to have a baby and it's taking a toll on their young marriage. When Calvin strikes up a friendship with a ten year old foster kid he starts dreaming of growing their family through adoption, but he knows that his wife isn't on the same page. What will it take to make her see the situation differently?  And what about poor Miles, he's been a foster kid for so many years - will he ever have anything to look forward to? Charming and predictable. Nice clean fluff. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Summer Spirit

Great illustrations - I just didn't care for this coming of age story. Four cousins stay with their grandma every summer at the beach. This summer however, Louise realizes that her older sister and two cousins are really growing up without her. She's the youngest of the group and everyone seemed to have matured and grown into moody teenagers but her. She's essentially on her own as the older three go about flirting with boys and sneaking out. Her grandma is nice and sweet but she keeps forgetting things - did she already feed the dog? - why is she punishing the older three girls (spoiler she caught them sneaking out)? - did she change the calendar yet? Between her grandmother's forgetfulness, and disdain from the older three girls, Louise feels alone - that is until she meets the ghost of her grandma's dead sister. Suddenly the summer just got a lot more exciting. Just very meh to me. 

Poison Flowers and Pandemonium

The illustrations are fantastic - they jump off the page and are so effortlessly retro and vintage looking. The storyline however... is just ok. Poison Flowers and Pandemonium is a graphic novel omnibus that contains the following stories: The Bloody Cardinal 2: House of the Blue Dwarf, Monsters Illustrated, Cave Girls of the Lost World, and Fantomella. I've never read any of the work by Richard Sala so I was unfamiliar with the the Bloody Cardinal not having read the first one. Honestly that one is a bit jumbled and nonsensical and is my least favorite in this collection. Monsters Illustrated is cool - it's a bunch of pinups and monsters - many of them I'd like to have hanging. Cave Girls of the Lost World was fun and ridiculous - it seemed as if it was written by a middle school boy that like boobs and dinosaurs. Fantomella was short and sweet with a cool ending. I would definitely read more by this illustrator - supremely unique. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A Minute to Think

It may sound revolutionary - but the more you work and fill up all your free time with activities, planning, and to do items - the LESS efficient you are at work and at home. We've become so programmed to hit the ground running the moment we wake up that we stop taking time for ourselves. The burnout and overwork is palpable. We make ourselves available by email all day, we feel guilty whenever we see blank space on the calendar so we fill it, we don't like to say no so we inconvenience ourselves - the list is endless. Juliet Funt examines how introducing little white spaces on our work and social calendars can actually make us do our best work and make us feel better. Doing nothing, even if just for 2 or 5 minutes can help us re-orient ourselves and grab a breather. It can help our brains take a break before we switch to the next task. It doesn't need to be hours long, but we need small pauses throughout our day. Broken into three parts this leadership/self-help book covers the culture of insatiability, the white space way, and applying the principles. At the end of every chapter there is a brief bullet proof summary that is great for when you want to go back and look at a bite size chunk at the ideas in the book. Easy to read and understand - change doesn't have to start with management - it can start with you. I can't wait to start small and start adopting ideas from this book into my private and work life. A must read in a crazy busy digital age.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Miner's Lament

Very reminiscent of the Dear America Diary series - this book (which is part of the "I Am America" series) follows a young girl who wants to be involved in her father's strike against the Empire Zinc Mine. Ana Maria's mother died following an infection and ever since - she has blamed the Empire Zinc Mine because if they had indoor plumbing and hot water her mom might still be alive. It's the fifties for goodness sake - they're living like settlers, all because they are Mexican American and perceived as "less than." Even Ana Maria's father sees her as less than. Since she's a girl, she can't strike - she can only cook and clean. Since she's a girl she can't become a corridista (a singer of Mexican ballads) even though she can sing and play the vihuela beautifully. She's out to show them that even a girl in fifth grade can make a difference. Inspiring and educational. All though the characters in this story are fictionalized it is based on real events. There are also some accompanying illustrations that enhance the story. Great book - I would like to read more in this series! 

Monday, July 12, 2021

On the Way to the Wedding

Honestly one of my least favorite in the series. I didn't love the premise and also... it's so hard to imagine a love story with the younger siblings. They are still little kids to me! Anyways - the last installment of the series focuses on Gregory - the last unmarried of the eight Bridgerton kids. He is in no rush to be married or choose a profession but unexpectedly he falls madly in love with the back of a woman's neck at a ball. It was as if he was struck by a thunderbolt - Hermoine is the most beautiful and dazzling person he's ever met. He's POSITIVE that she is the one. Hermoine is not remotely interested in Gregory any of the other boys that fawn all over her - she is in love with another - and her best friend, Lady Lucinda has to step in and warn him off. Instead of deterring him it makes him only more determined to win Hermoine's heart. Why can't he see what's right in front of her? Some twists and turns at the end. Just a so so installment. Now I'm on to the prequels!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

A Single Thread

Beautifully narrated - I couldn't get enough of this story about a woman in her thirties desperate to forge her own path. At 38 Violet sees her future laid out before her - stuck in her childhood home in a quaint English village, taking care of her mother - it makes her shudder. Her mother is a miserable old wretch and does nothing but complain (seriously she's the worst) so Violet decides to put in a request for a work transfer. She moves out into a small apartment of her own and barely makes ends meet on her small salary, but at least she's free. She happens into an embroidery group which helps make her new friends, gain confidence, and learn a new skill. Since her fiancĂ© died in the great war and the men in England are so scarce, she thought she would just have family - but that changes when she find Arthur. The bell ringer in the cathedral she embroiders at. Violet is coming into her own, slowly but surely forging her own path into the great unknown. Great story, excellent narrator. I love Tracy Chevalier. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

A Deadly Education

Wow - Naomi Novik knows how to worldbuild. She is a master of creating the most in depth, unique, and exciting fantasies. Admittedly, A Deadly Education drops readers right into the thick of it at the beginning of the book - and it takes a chapter or two to begin to understand the dangerous world that Galadriel is in. Galadriel is a teenage sorceress and she's only got one more year to go before she can hopefully graduate from the Scholomance, a school in the void that magic users from all over the world attend. It's a dark academy with no teachers, only creatures that lay wait for unsuspecting students. Far less than half the students make it to graduation - even less make it across the graduation hall to rejoin the world. Orion Lake has a bad habit of playing hero and he's saved Galadriel's life more than once now. But Galadriel doesn't want a savior - she just wants to make it out alive on her terms - she's not trying to make friends (which is good because she would be awful at it). Filled with a sprinkling of teenage drama, a load of big bad beasties, and lots of wonderful world building. I can't wait to read the next book in the series!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light

Ellis, Helen. Bring Your Baggage and Don't Pack Light: Essays. digital. 2021. Penguin Random House Audio. 

Bestselling author of Southern Lady Code and American Housewife, Helen Ellis, returns with another humorous collection of essays on the beauty of friendship. More than just tired old adages, this witty collection explores what real friends do for one another; stories about being a last minute birthing partner,  supporting a friend through cancer, backdoor plastic surgery and greyhound buses - there is no limit on what friends will do for each other. Hele even explores the joy of being a number two friend or a backup buddy - less pressure -  more befits!  Each of the twelve essays features a revolving cast of friends and side characters that will leave readers cackling with delight. Enchantingly narrated by the author herself which lends to the books relatability and hilarity. This collection manages to be both poignant and emotional; while still being facetious, dirty, sassy, and laugh out loud funny. Perfect for fans of Jenny Lawson and David Sedaris. - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Friday, July 2, 2021

Red Queen

I haven't got invested in a young adult series in a while but I think I will definitely continue on with the Red Queen series. This is a new dystopian fantasy series that is inventive and unique enough to set itself apart from Hunger Games and Divergent (although there are some clear parallels) and yet remains cool enough to be added to those ranks. In Mare's world society is divided between the reds and the silvers. The silvers are the high class people who have special abilities to wield fire, read minds, control water, manipulate metals, and more. The reds are the lower caste, the ones who still bleed red, have no powers, and have been oppressed for decades. Mare's world is turned upside down when she is sent to work in the palace. She has lived in abject poverty her whole life and to see such prosperity and wealth is sickening to her. Mare is secretly rooting for the Red Dawn, a terrorist organization trying to overthrow the silvers and when she discovers that she has silver powers and red blood (a totally anomaly) she finds herself in a rare position to help others and overthrow the silvers once and for all. Engrossing and fun. I can't wait for the next in the series!