Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Dragon's Curse: A Transference Novel

The Dragon’s Curse: A Transference Novel 
by Bethany Wiggins
Crown, 2018, 328 pgs, Young Adult Fiction

In this sequel to The Dragon’s Price, Sorrowlynn is finally prepared to join Golmarr in his search for a cure to the dragon’s curse. Before she can begin her journey, her father arrives with an army to take her home. He has married her by proxy to the heir of another kingdom and the heir has come to claim his new bride. As if trying to escape her captor husband and reunite with her true love isn’t difficult enough, a two-headed dragon is determined to find and kill Sorrowlynn before she can stop the dragon’s curse.

This was a very good follow-up to the first book. The plot is engaging, the characters have depth, and the book takes some unexpected turns. I especially appreciate that the romantic plot doesn’t overtake the main conflict of the story. I would recommend this book series to any teens that enjoy fantasy.


The Girl With the Red Balloon

The Girl With the Red Balloon
by Katherine Locke
Albert Whitman & Company, 2017, 277 pages, fiction

Ellie’s class trip to Germany is supposed to be a fun adventure, but she is having some conflicting feelings since her grandfather, a holocaust survivor, did not want her to come. When visiting the Berlin Wall she sees a red balloon, unattended, and decides to get a photograph with it. Her grandfather, often talks of the girl with a red balloon that saved him from a terrible fate.

As soon as Ellie touches the balloon, she finds herself in East Berlin 18 months before the Berlin Wall will come down. She is found by Kai, a young Romani man who works for a secret organization that smuggles people over the Wall by using magic red balloons. Reluctant at first she has no choice, but to trust him or risk being caught by the German police.

Ellie, Kai, and Kai’s work partner, Mitzi, soon discover that someone is breaking the magic laws in their rescue society to attempt time travel, and people are dying as a result. They need to find out who is behind it. Throughout Ellie’s time in East Germany, accounts of her grandfather’s experience in a Polish Ghetto are weaved throughout the book.

This book was wonderful. All the characters were well developed, and it was fun to mix magic and science fiction in with a historical fiction. Locke did her research and made sure to touch on the difficulties experienced in East Berlin, and the types of circumstances that would lead to someone risking their life to escape to West Germany. She also includes the quiet ways that people rebel and resist the oppression in the East.


Long Way Down

Long Way Down 
By Jason Reynolds
Atheneum, 2017. 306 pages.

Fifteen-year-old Will lives by three rules: 1) no crying, 2) no snitching, and 3) always seek revenge. Will has done pretty well by the first two rules, but now it is time to put rule number three to the test. Will’s brother, Shawn, was shot dead the night before, and Will now finds himself with a gun tucked into his belt, on his way to kill his brother’s murderer. But as Will rides the elevator down to street level, he is visited by seven ghosts from his past that reveal truths that make Will question his resolve.

This book may be in verse, but it deals with some pretty heavy subject matters; grief over losing a loved one, gun violence, and the pressures of culture and society to name a few. The verse format makes it easy to read and a quick read. Nevertheless, this award-winning story will challenge how you view matters of right and wrong, the meaning of family, and what it means to be strong. I loved listening to the audiobook narrated by the author, as his voice lends some serious gravity to the story line.


Monday, April 16, 2018

The Power of Moments

Cover image for The power of moments : why certain experiences have extraordinary impact
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact
By Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Simon and Schuster, 2017, 307 pages, Nonfiction

Why do we tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as the last moment, and forget the rest? Why do we feel most comfortable when things are certain, but feel most alive when they're not? And why are our most cherished memories clustered into a brief period during our youth? The New York Times bestselling authors of Switch and Made to Stick explore why certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us--and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.

Chip and Dan Heath are at it again, writing a great motivational/leadership book that really got me thinking about all of the little interactions I have with people every day. What small things can I do to make another person’s day better? Are there things that happen every day that could be improved and heightened? This book is a must for anyone who wants to improve their customer service skills, but I also think it will be beneficial for anyone who wants to make any relationship better, or who wants to make any moment stand out.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

My Dearest Love

My Dearest Love
by Sarah M. Eden
Mirror Press, 2017, 129 pgs. Historical Romance

Ian O'Connor spends long days in a textile mill in New York City, enduring the dangerous conditions to help support his parents and brothers and sisters. Biddy Dillon has lost her home and her family and is barely making ends meet as she works in the same textile mill. Life feels hopeless for both of them until their paths cross and they begin to feel a little spark of joy when they are around each other. The problem is that Ian doesn't know how to talk to her and his family won't stop teasing him about it. When tragedy strikes, they must decide if they have enough courage to face an uncertain future together.

This is a novella that comes before the Longing for Home series. I loved finally finding out how Ian and Biddy met and fell in love. The O'Connor family is so loving and kind and they don't let hard circumstances keep them down. Sarah Eden continues to do what she does best but creating a heartwarming story with characters that feel like family.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Lightless Sky: a Twelve-Year-Old Refugee's Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World

The Lightless Sky: a Twelve-Year-Old Refugee’s Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World
By Gulwali Passarlay
HarperOne, 2016. 361 pgs. Biography

Born in Afghanistan, after his father was killed by American troops, the Taliban wanted to recruit Gulwali as a suicide bomber and the Americans wanted him to be an informer. His mother was determined that her sons would have a better future and paid smugglers to take Gulwali and his older brother out of the country. Gulwali traveled 12,500 miles and passed through the hands of at least twenty-five smugglers. He crossed and was deported and re-crossed borders to Iran, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and finally Great Britain for nearly a year. He was imprisoned, beaten, starved, nearly drowned, but determined to reach the freedom his mother paid so much for him to have.

Through the experiences of Gulwali Passarlay the reader can glimpse the desperate situation for refugees trying to escape the chaos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other war torn countries. SH

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State

The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State
by Nadia Murad
Tim Duggan Books. 2017. 306 pgs. Biography

Nadia Murad was raised in Kocho, a Yazidi community in Iraq. Though telling her story is traumatic, she knows that telling the truth about what ISIS did to the people of  Kocho is the surest way to make the world understand their crimes against the Yazidi people.

In August, 2014, the men of the village were murdered by ISIS and the women either killed, or kidnapped and taken to various ISIS controlled cities. Nadia was taken to Mosul, forced to convert to Islam, and sold as a sex slave to an ISIS leader who subsequently sold her to another soldier. Finally Nadia was able to escape and make her way to Kurdish controlled territory where she rejoined her few remaining family members. Today she is an activist working on behalf of the Yazidi people who are refugees, speaking whenever she can about the genocide against them and seeking to bring the leaders of ISIS to justice.  SH

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Need to Know

Need to Know
by Karen Cleaveland
Ballantine Books, 2018, 290 pgs.  Fiction

Vivian Miller is a professional trying to balance work and family.  What makes her situation unique is that she works at Langley as an analyst searching for Russian sleeper cells on American soil.  The good news is that she is very good at her job.  The bad news is that her most recent breakthrough will completely destroy her life and her family.  How far will she go to protect her children and husband?  How much can her country ask of her?

I haven’t read a good spy novel in ages and this was a pretty good reminder of why I really do enjoy the genre.  Vivian is a very relatable character that you can’t help but root for her.  I was left guessing at the loyalties of the different characters up until the very last page, which is always a good sign. Nothing groundbreaking but a solid addition to literary spydom. 



When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
by Daniel H. Pink
Riverhead Books, 2017. 272 pgs. Nonfiction

Does it matter when you start a new goal?  A new relationship?  A new job?  Does it matter what time of day you tackle different types of tasks?  How about when you should visit a hospital or have surgery?  The answer to all these questions is a resounding YES, according to Daniel H. Pink it matters a great deal.  Pink has reviewed cutting edge research and data to determine how we can best schedule our lives to optimize our success and happiness.

I love books that use science to explain life.  The author’s stories and illustrations are entertaining and convincing (not that I needed a lot of convincing to know that naps are awesome).  I particularly enjoy the way Pink writes about his own personal feelings about the discoveries he makes.  You feel like you are on a journey with him, picking up little jewels of insight as you travel from page to page.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Burn Bright

Burn Bright
by Patricia Briggs New York : Ace, 2018. 308 pgs, Science Fiction

Charles and Anna Cornick are facing a threat that is hitting way to close to home. There is someone attacking the Wildlings; the werewolves who are too unstable and broken to live among the general populace. While Bran is out of the country Charles and Anna must face this threat and find out who is threatening the safety of the pack.

As always I love Patricia Briggs. I love Anna’s personality and I love the nuances they mention between the relationships in the pack. I loved learning about the Wildlings and their special place in the Marrock’s pack. The magic in this particular novel was unique and a fun combination of Brigg's style and fairytales. Patricia Briggs just creates this world of magic that I can get lost in for hours.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Emergency Contact

 Emergency Contact
By Mary H. K. Choi
New York, Simon & Schuster, 2018. 400 pgs Young Adult

What do you do when your best friend is someone you’ve only “met” twice but text with for hours? For Penny Lee, Sam Becker is much more than words on a screen. He is more than her college roommate’s young, erstwhile uncle. He is also more than just a sexy, tattooed, wanna-be-filmmaker barista who has anxiety attacks and bakes. He is her person, someone with whom she shares her deepest anxieties and darkest secrets. Her emergency contact.

 As two lonely and complicated people, they begin to build a friendship and maybe something more. But this book isn’t just about relationships in the cell phone age. It's about art. Sam and Penny are both creatives, Sam longing to go to film school and Penny determined to become a writer. They both have to decide who they want to be as artists and how to build their craft.

Mary H. K. Choi’s debut novel is complex; poignant while being funny, romantic yet awkward, serious and silly. I was expecting all the cliches. They were there, but they were handled so honestly and with such humor that they didn’t feel cliche. Choi creates quirky and endearing characters who show real growth and self-awareness. I couldn’t put it down.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Wonder Woman: Warbringer
by Leigh Bardugo
Random House, 2017. 364 pages. Young Adult Fantasy

Hidden from mortal eyes, the Amazons live in peace on Themyscira, their island  home gifted them by the gods. Once mortal women, these warriors' bear the duty of protecting peace, armed with immortality, strength and wisdom,. All except Diana. Though daughter of the great Amazon Queen, Diana isn't sure she is an Amazon, truly; unlike her sisters who lived first as humans, she is the only Amazon to be born such. She longs to prove herself worthy, a hero - but when she saves Alia, a mortal, she's risks everything. It would bad enough if Alia were just an ordinary girl, but she is a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen, whose legendary beauty started the Trojan War. Cursed to usher in an age of war and destruction, Alia is hunted by forces who would do anything eliminate - or possess - her. But perhaps together, she and Diana can find a way to save the world.

Long-time or newly converted fans of Wonder Woman will love this book! Fear not, it's not just a novelization of last summer's blockbuster film. WARBRINGER flawlessly translates Diana's coming-of-age into the 21st century, building upon the Wonder Woman universe gorgeously, subtly expanding it to a richer, more inclusive, diverse, more believable world. While there's plenty of action, this book offers so much more. Intensely relateable, the strength of the story is the theme of friendship, particularly female friendship. Despite the fact that Diana and Alia are not at all ordinary young women, the essence of their struggles to understand who they are, what impact their lives will have on their world, is in fact, pretty ordinary. I mean I'm no Amazon superhuman princess slash hero of mankind, but I felt the much the same as I left childhood behind and forged out into the unknown to make a life of my own. I think we all did...do. Still do. And the best support we have facing any life transition are authentic, empowering friendship. Another thing I love about this book is the character development. In addition to fantastic protagonists, we're treated to a host of equally developed, diverse, and interesting supporting characters. And in a book about relationships, I'd expect nothing less.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Dry

Cover image for The Dry
The Dry
By Jane Harper
Flatiron Books, 2017, 328 pages, Mystery

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. It looks like Luke murdered his family and committed suicide out of desperation over financial troubles. Luke’s parents refuse to believe their son capable of such heinous acts, and they call on Falk to clear their dead son’s name. Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened that awful day. As Falk reluctantly investigates Luke's death, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

Harper’s freshman novel is full of atmosphere and character. You can feel the blistering heat of the Australian Outback on your skin, and you can sense the tension in the air as desperation makes the townspeople question each other’s motivations. Since this book is the first in a series, there are two mysteries to solve: What really happened to drive Falk and his father out of town when Falk was a teenager, and what happened to Luke and his family in the present? Both are compelling mysteries, although I occasionally felt like some parts of one mystery were drawn out in order to introduce additional details about the other. Still, this is a solid entry in a new mystery series, and I’m anxious to read the next book, Force of Nature, to see if it has just as much atmosphere and character.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Wicked Deep

The Wicked Deep
by Shea Ernshaw
New York, Simon Pulse, 2018. 310 pgs Young Adult

The town of Sparrow Oregon is haunted by three sisters who were drowned because the jealous townspeople suspected them of witchcraft. Two hundred years later the town is still plagued by mysterious drownings during the “Season” but Penny is determined to find a way to stop them to save the boy she loves.

The Wicked Deep balanced beautifully telling a story that takes place in the past to bring depth to the actions happening in the present. I loved the ghost story that was built into the plot. Overall a fun Teen read.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Year of No Clutter: a Memoir

Year of No Clutter: a Memoir 
by Eve Schaub
Sourcebooks, Inc. 2017, 290 pgs, Biography.

In this memoir, Eve decides to finally tackle her “hell room,” the room in her house that is completely full from floor to ceiling with stuff, no walkways included. And did she mention it is the biggest room in her house? As she tackles the clutter in the hell room, she contemplates what makes someone a hoarder? Is it the propensity to keeping everything, or just a matter of not enough space? Her effort to get rid of an overwhelming amount of stuff forces her to also confront how she has tied her sense of identity to objects. Things represent different points of our personal history and trigger memories, if we get rid of those things aren’t we losing our reference point to our past?

This memoir is both hilarious and thought-provoking. As I listened to Eve’s battle with clutter, I felt a great desire to tackle my own clutter beast. I love how Eve comes to terms with her sense of identity and learns to let objects go, but still finds a middle ground for keeping important sentimental items. This is a great, light-hearted memoir that I think anyone could enjoy.


Genius Belabored: Childbed Fever and the Tragic Life of Ignaz Simmelweis

Genius Belabored: Childbed Fever and the Tragic Life of Ignaz Simmelweis 
by Theodore G Obenchain
The University of Alabama Press, 2016, 249 pgs, Biography

 In a time before germ theory existed, giving birth in a hospital was especially dangerous because childbed fever ran rampant throughout maternity wards all over Europe. In 1847, Ignaz Simmelweis realized the disease was spread through contamination by contact, typically occurring from the hands of the physician, of the wounds caused by labor with toxic particles originating in cadavers or other infected persons, and that infection could be prevented through sanitation measures.

However the medical community was not intellectually prepared to accept Simmelweis’ new doctrine for a multitude of reasons. This disregard and contempt from his peers caused him extreme mental stress for the rest of his life. The author of this biography proposes that Simmelweis suffered from bipolar disorder, which was exacerbated by his colleague’s refusal to see the truth. This made him very difficult to work with and ultimately hindered the acceptance of his doctrine. The disdain he received in life culminated in the circumstances surrounding his tragic death.

This man solved a problem that had been plaguing hospitals for years, yet most would not believe him mostly because his theory of one cause for the disease was so unorthodox. I was absolutely baffled that these men of medical science would reject a theory that very clearly and drastically reduced mortality rates, whatever the theory behind it, out of sheer arrogance. Anyone interested in medical science or the history of medicine will enjoy this biography.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Ashes on the Moor

Ashes on the Moor
By Sarah M. Eden
Shadow Mountain, 2018. 376 pgs. Historical Romance

Evangeline's life changed drastically the day that most of her family died and a cruel aunt sent her to be a schoolteacher in a small factory town called Smeatley. She is separated from her only remaining sister and told that the only way for them to be reunited is for her to be successful in her new career. Evangeline wants desperately to succeed but she has lived a privileged life and has never had to learn to cook, clean or support herself. To add to her troubles, most of the children have never been to school before and speak a dialect that is almost impossible for her to understand. Luckily she meets her neighbor Dermot who is willing to teach her the basic necessities of life and they come to rely on each other in the ups and downs of life.

I am a huge fan of Sarah Eden's books. She continues to write stories with complex characters, an intriguing story line, a well developed setting, and a happy ending. I really enjoyed learning more about the struggles of living in a Regency era mill town. I can't even imagine the difficulties these families faced. This is another title in the Proper Romance line of books and I highly recommend it!



by Tara Westover
Random House, 2018, 334 pgs.  Biography

Educated is the story of a girl raised in the mountains of Idaho to a survivalist father.  She and her younger siblings were born at home and did not have birth certificates or social security numbers until they were in their late teens.  She was technically homeschooled but her father felt that helping in the family junkyard business better prepared her for “the end” which was quickly approaching.  At seventeen Tara managed to get accepted to BYU where she sat in her first classroom and learned of things like the Holocaust, which she’d never heard of before.  From there she tells of discovering the world and finding it vastly different from what she was raised understanding.

Tara’s story is heartbreaking but her strength and determination are inspiring.  She writes with beautiful clarity and honesty, which I absolutely loved.  Readers who enjoy deeply personal memoirs will definitely want to pick up Educated. 


Carnegie's Maid

Carnegie’s Maid
by Marie Benedict
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018. 281 pgs. Historical Fiction

Andrew Carnegie, at the age of 33, seemed to take his life in a drastically different direction as he began to use his vast wealth in philanthropic ways.  Much speculation has been spent on trying to find out why this change occurred and some historians think it likely that a personal relationship brought on the about face.  In Carnegie’s Maid, author Marie Benedict imagines such a relationship. 

Clara Kelly, a desperate Irish immigrant, takes the chance of a lifetime working as the wealthy Carnegie matriarch’s personal maid.  She meets and slowly grows to admire her mistress’s oldest son Andrew and is both hopeful and afraid that her affection will be returned. 

This is a wonderful work of historical fiction.  The early years of industrial America provide a wonderful background of change and opportunity that fits perfectly with both Andrew and Clara’s efforts to secure the futures of their families. 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian
By Han Kang
Hogarth, 2015. 188 pgs. Fiction

Yeong-hye and her husband have lived a very average, relatively boring life. However, when nightmares of blood and brutality begin, Yeong-hye decides to become vegetarian, a decision that she hopes will make the nightmares that are driving her mad stop. As she asserts control over this aspect of her life, the lives of those around her fall into chaos. As her husband, brother-in-law, and sister try to force Yeong-hye to change her mind, she becomes ever more broken and estranged.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. It’s short, but also stomach turning. Yeong-hye is abused by the people who are supposed to care about her, and for many she is objectified, nothing more than a piece of meat: An average wife for a husband who expects her to be subservient, a piece of art and desire that even other artists view as perverse, a sister that has always taken the brunt of a father’s rage. Yeong-hye is broken in a variety of ways, and her descent into mental illness is heart-breaking. Told in three parts from different points of view, this is a book for readers who like to peel away layer upon layer, finding meaning and allegory. It’s deep, weird, but definitely not for everyone.


Craving Connection

Craving Connection
Crystal Stine, editor
B & H Publishing Group, 2017. 280 pgs. Nonfiction

This book of essays shares 30 challenges to build real-life engagement with the people around you. There are three sections of the book focusing on connecting with God, with friends, and with your community. Each essay begins with a bible verse and an inspirational quote, with the essay centered on the theme of that verse.

This was a book that took some time to read because I wanted to ponder the essay and the suggestions given to figure out ways that I could apply what was being talked about. This book would be good to re-visit in the future since there are so many ideas that can be applied.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Chancer : How One Good Boy Saved Another : A Memoir

Chancer : How One Good Boy Saved Another : A Memoir
By Donnie Kanter Winokur
Grand Harbor Press, 2017. 272 pgs. Nonfiction

This memoir begins with Donnie and her husband, Harvey, going through the adoption process in Russia for their two children, Morasha and Iyal. As they adjust to parenting and the kids start to grow up, they notice Iyal is having some developmental issues. After many doctor visits and ongoing struggles, Iyal is diagnosed with FASD's (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders).  Struggling to find the best solution for giving Iyal a better life, Donnie researched more into how Service dogs can be trained to help children with hidden disabilities. Eventually Chancer becomes the first FASD trained service dog, and he forever changes life for Iyal and the whole family.

Donnie Winoukur's memoir is such a touching story. I felt so much love for this family, and a lot of sympathy for Iyal. I was not aware of the extent FASD's has on a child's life. She is open about the emotional toll, and real moments that were so hard on all of them as a family. It is wonderful that Donnie put her last hope into a service animal. If you read this, you will fall in love with Iyal and Chancer's relationship, and forever respect all the service animals out there for the care they give.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
By Carol S. Dweck
Ballantine Books, 2008. 277 pgs. Nonfiction

Carol Dweck is a researcher at Columbia who has spent her time exploring the way our minds view and interpret the world. She argues that people either have a fixed or a growth mindset. The fixed mindset is more common in our society because we are taught from a young age that if you are talented or smart, then you will succeed. If you fail then that means you weren't as talented as you thought. The growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that hard work is more important than success. Failure just means that you need to try something different the next time and that you are capable of anything you work towards. The book uses many examples from sports and business to show the differences between someone with a fixed or growth mindset.

This book was fascinating! I especially liked the chapters where she explains how these mindsets fit into parenting and education. She gives examples of the praise we give children and the harm that can be done by a well meaning comment. She also gives examples of better ways of saying things. The biggest thing this book helped me with was being more aware of myself and ways I can improve my mindset. This is a book that I plan to read again!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Love Remains

Love Remains: A Hope Springs Novel
By Sarah M. Eden
Mirror Press, 2017. 366 pgs. Romance

Tavish O'Connor has been doing everything he can to hold his family together since his younger brother Finbarr's accident, but it is a heavy weight that is starting to take its' toll. Tavish decides to hire Cecily Attwater, a tutor for the blind, to help Finbarr learn how to navigate life without his eyesight. Cecily has dedicated her life to help others overcome the challenges she has conquered herself. When she arrives in the small Wyoming town, she knows it won't be easy, but she is not prepared for the hatred she encounters just because she is English and the frustration of having a student that refuses to learn. Tavish and Cecily must find a way to overcome their differences if they are ever going to make a difference to the whole O'Connor family.

This is the third book in the Hope Springs Series. I was so happy to have a book that focused more on Tavish. He has faced a lot of trials over the course of the series so it was nice to finally have him find some hope and healing. Sarah Eden creates amazing characters that work their way into your heart. She is able to tackle hard subjects by adding perfectly timed moments of humor. I highly recommend any of Sarah Eden's books, especially the Hope Springs series. It is best to read the series in order.


Friday, March 23, 2018

The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War

The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War
By H.W. Brands
Doubleday, 2016. 437 pages. Nonfiction

Truman, who never expected to be President, approved the use of the atom bomb in Japan and subsequently won re-election at a time when the U.S. was recovering economic prosperity but facing the start of the Cold War. Truman’s postwar successes in Europe included the Marshall Plan and the Berlin airlift, when he stood firm against Stalin in Germany. In Asia, however, the Communists took over China and North Korea invaded South Korea. At the same time, General MacArthur was incredibly successful as the head of the U.S. occupation and rehabilitation of Japan. MacArthur was famously insubordinate to Truman while Truman thought he had accurately taken the measure of MacArthur and could tolerate his disrespect. But international events created a situation where these two very capable but very different men would clash over U.S. policies in Asia. Brands skillfully portrays the relationship between these two men and the background to events that still shape the world we live in. SH

Take Me With You

Take Me With You
by Andrea Gibson
Plume Books, 2018. 200 pages. Nonfiction

An award-winning poet and activist, Andrea Gibson's latest collection of poems, one-liners, and more comes in a pocket-sized volume you can carry along anywhere. Chock full of emotive, relateable, touching poetry, this collection features work divided into three themed sections: Love, The World, and Becoming.

Don't let the size fool you; this petite book packs a real emotional punch.  I loved feeling so connected to a writer. Gibson has an amazing talent for making you feel their feelings and relate to their experiences, which I think is their greatest strength as a writer. I felt as though we shared in each other's joy, fear, pain, excitement, or wonder reading the poems similar to my life experiences, and  felt my heart and eyes open in equal measure to struggles, issues, and situations completely alien to me. This book was an uplifting, celebratory, hopeful look at life. Take it with you.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Compost City: Practical Composting Know-how for Small-Space Living

Compost City: Practical Composting Know-how for Small-Space Living 
By Rebecca Louie
Roost Books, 2015. 209 pages.

According to author Rebecca Louie, anyone can compost, in any living space, any time of the year. This statement sums up Louie’s can-do attitude when it comes to composting in small spaces. First of all, why compost? Composting not only reduces the amount of garbage that goes into landfills, but also produces a lovely rich fertilizer for your household plants or garden. Many people are put-off by the idea of composting, thinking that it takes a large yard, lots of labor, and/or requires the use of creepy crawlies. The good news is that none of the above is required, and with the right system, anyone can compost!

I especially love the readability of this book. Injected
with humor at every turn, Louie makes composting easy to understand and thoroughly enjoyable. Several different composting methods are explained in this book, complete with illustrations and tips and tricks. Out of the many composting books I have read in order to start my own compost, this book is by far my favorite. If you have ever had even a passing interest in composting, definitely give this volume a try.


Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste 
By Bea Johnson
Scribner, 2013. 292 pages. Nonfiction

Bea Johnson is the queen of living Zero Waste. But what is zero waste, and why is it important? It is nothing new to hear that our garbage has a detrimental effect on the environment (Great Pacific Garbage Patch, anyone?), and it can be overwhelming to think about how one person can make a difference. Johnson chronicles her journey to transform her household into one that produces just one quart of garbage a year. According to Johnson, going zero waste not only helps the environment, but decreases annual spending, and increasing overall physical and mental health.

While this book can be overwhelming, I like to think of it as a guide for taking things one step at a time. The first section is dedicated to the Five R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. In my opinion, learning and living the Five R’s is the first and most effective step that anyone can take in order to reduce their waste output. Johnson also dedicates a section to each of the largest waste-producing areas of our home: the kitchen, the bathroom, wardrobe, workspace, and more. Having incorporated many aspects of Zero Waste into my own life, I believe that anyone and everyone can find a few tips and tricks in this book to work into their lifestyle.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
by Sheryl Sandberg
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013, 228 pages, Nonfiction

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg examines why there are so few women in major leadership positions, especially in the tech industry, and shares advice from her own experiences and other women on what can be done to help solve this problem as well as how women can find work they are passionate about.

Taking examples from her own experience, Sandberg shows how expected gender roles work against women seeking leadership positions. Not only are women forced to balance family and job responsibilities, but they also experience more bias and subtle pressures from both men and other women whether knowingly or not.

This book is well-researched and relevant for all working women (and I would add men too). Though some of the ideas are not necessarily ground-breaking, such as being more self-confident, remaining engaged, and getting more help at home, the information provided gives women a clear path to improving their work life situation whether the goal is to make it to the top or not.


Friday, March 16, 2018

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017. 344 pgs. Young Adult

Julia and her parents are mourning the loss of her sister Olga, who bound the family together with her level head and responsible nature.  Now Julia languishes under the domineering eye of her mother, who disapproves of her confrontational nature.  Julia can't help but feel that her mother mourns the loss of her "perfect Mexican daughter" and wants Julia to start shaping up - regardless of what Julia wants for herself.  But when Julia discovers some unusual items in Olga's room, she begins to suspect that Olga had her own secrets.

This coming-of-age story centers around Julia, a combative, aggressive, resentful, angry, and hurting young woman.  While her personality seems off-putting, I couldn't help but relate to her throughout the book.  Julia's life is also colored by her family and their traditions, foods, and values, and while she chafes against some of the more rigid aspects of her culture, other parts give her a special perspective on the world and help to define her.  While I initially thought this book would be about processing grief from Olga's death and navigating their family without her, I soon realized the book is instead largely focused on Julia and her journey to find her place within her family and the larger world.