Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Anatomy of Peace

The Anatomy of Peace
By The Arbinger Institute
Berrett-Koehler, 2006. 232 pgs. Nonfiction

Lou and his wife are heartbroken but also very angry as they drop their son Cory off at a treatment center. Cory just spent a year in jail for a drug conviction and just months after getting released, gets caught stealing more prescription drugs. What Lou doesn't realize is that for two days, the parents are the ones who will be taught how to change the way they think and interact with those around them, and this is what will have the biggest impact on whether their kids turn their lives around.

I love when nonfiction books read like a novel because the story line holds my attention as I learn the self-improvement principles. This book builds on many of the principles in the book Leadership and Self-Deception but each book can be read by itself and still make perfect sense. I really look at every relationship in my life differently after reading this book. It has had a huge impact on how I deal with conflict. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

AL

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
By Stephanie Knipper
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016. 325 pgs. Fiction

Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when they were younger. Now, as adults, the sisters have been estranged for many years. Rose reaches out to her sister for help with her 10 year old daughter Antoinette. Antoinette has severe autism that requires constant care but she also has a special gift of being able to heal things with her touch. But each healing causes increasingly severe consequences for Antoinette. Rose's health is failing and she is worried that without Lily's help, people may take advantage of Antoinette's power and put her life in danger.

I really enjoyed this debut novel. I liked that different chapters were narrated by different characters because it gave a more complete view of all that had happened in the past and what was currently happening. My favorite chapters were those of Antoinette because it gave a glimpse of what was happening inside her head. It was also interesting to find out that the author based part of this story on her own experience raising a daughter with disabilities.

AL

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded
By Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis (Illustrator)
Harry N. Abrams, 2016. 240 pgs. Graphic Novel

This is a graphic novel biography of English mathematician and scientist Alan Turing.  He is credited with many of the foundation principles of contemporary computer science, and is noted for his groundbreaking work on the fundamentals of cryptography and artificial intelligence.  This graphic novel does an excellent job of illustrating some of Turing's important work in a visual and comprehensible way, making it more accessible to the average reader.  Also fascinating is the recounting of Turing's code breaking efforts during World War II that led to the cracking of the German Enigma.  This book goes a bit beyond the film of the same name, documenting his arrest and trial for his openly gay lifestyle.  It's a riveting yet tragic story.

I enjoyed the film but was even more amazed when this book made clear that Turing forged the path for the basic computing that we use every day, and also explained it in a way that I could understand.  The narrative was told from the perspectives of multiple people in his life, which broke up the story a bit, but ultimately the reader walks away with a good appreciation for the man and the extraordinary details of his life and genius.

BHG

Attachments

Attachments 
By Rainbow Rowell
Dutton, 2011. 323 pgs. Fiction

Lincoln O'Neill took a job at as an "internet security officer" at a newspaper, but he didn't realize that he would basically be reading other people's email.  He imagined building firewalls and installing security software, not checking for gamblers and inappropriate workplace language.  When Lincoln comes across Beth and Jennifer's emails, he knows their conversation is just a harmless (but hilarious) discussion of their personal lives.  But he can't help being drawn in by their stories.  By the time he realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

Rainbow Rowell has a knack for coming up with quirky characters who get tangled up into interesting situations.  This is her first book, and will appeal to chick lit fans even more than her later books.  If you enjoy her as an author, this book won't disappoint.  It's a great read-alike for Sophie Kinsella (specifically Can You Keep a Secret), and a great, light, summer read. 

BHG

The Springsweet

The Springsweet
By Saundra Mitchell
Boston, 2012. 278 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Seventeen year old Zora Stewart is more than ready to leave her home in Baltimore after the tragic death of her fiancé, Thomas. So, when Zora's newly widowed aunt needs help on her struggling homestead in the Oklahoma Territory, Zora welcomes the chance to escape into a simple life of hard work. However, things get complicated quickly when Zora discovers her valuable new gift for sensing underground water.

The Springsweet is book two in Saundra Mitchell’s Vespertine series. I didn't read book one, and although I’m sure a few things would have made more sense, I don’t regret starting in the middle of the series; Zora's story stands on its own. This is a fun read, and I especially liked that Mitchell crossed a western setting with supernatural elements. If you've read  Rae Carson's Walk on Earth a Stranger or Michelle Modesto's Revenge and the Wild, you'll enjoy The Springsweet -- particularly if you like stories with a little more romance.

CNC

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Glass Sword

Glass Sword 
By Victoria Aveyard
HarperTeen, 2016. 464 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Glass Sword is book two in Aveyard’s Red Queen series. If you still haven’t finished Red Queen, then this is your warning! Spoilers ahead!

Glass Sword picks up right where Red Queen ends, in the middle of an epic chase; the newly crowned King Maven is still determined to capture Mare, Cal, and a rebel group called The Scarlet Guard. Barely staying one step ahead of King Maven, Mare sets off on a mission to find other "newbloods" – reds like Mare who have silver abilities. Mare knows she needs to find these people before King Maven does, but that task is near impossible because she still doesn’t know who she can trust. 

Even though this book starts off with a lot of action, I didn't find it nearly as gripping as Red Queen. However, once I switched to listening to the audiobook, I had absolutely no problem finishing it. I especially enjoyed the side story between Farley and Shade, as well as the introduction of so many new characters with interesting abilities. For a moment, I felt like I'd left Norta and found my way to Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. If you liked the first book in this series, you won't be disappointed with the second!

CNC

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Copperhead

Copperhead, Vol. 1: A New Sheriff in Town TP  
By Jay Faerber
Image Comics, 2015. 128 pgs. Graphic Novel. Science Fiction
Clara Benson, single mother and tough as nails cop, lands a job as the new sheriff on a dusty back-water hole of a planet in the wake of an interstellar war. Here and there the reader gets tidbits of backstory- mention of artificial humans created to fight battles, aliens bitter about the conquest, a separate peace treaty with the mysterious natives- but the real meat of Copperhead lays in Clara’s constant upheaval of the town’s expectations.

Every character in Copperhead’s cast gets a full personality; without dwelling overlong on exposition, Faerber manages to develop motivations and personalities that leave the reader wanting more. Copperhead leans on common tropes for Westerns (Dukes of Hazard fans will recognize the Boss Hogg breed of kingpin), but the science fiction setting throws them into new and fresh light. The artwork is clear and beautiful, and works well with the script to show the deep emotions of the rough characters. Copperhead has action, mystery, and deep family loyalty woven throughout; it is one of my favorite graphic novels. 

JMS

Mind Your Manors

Mind Your Manors: Tried-and-True British Household Cleaning Tips 
by Lucy Lethbridge
W.W. Norton & Company, 2016. 114 pgs. Nonfiction

Housework has gone through many changes and revolutions since the 1800s and 1900s. After researching the various cleaning methods from the servants of those ages, the author has created a general guide to how British housekeeping was managed in the large manor houses. Topics include dusting, laundry, managing pests, bathrooms, and more. How did these estates stay clean without today’s often used chemicals? Simple ingredients that people still use today.

I have to admit, I was hoping for more from this book. It wasn’t a complete disappointment, but it did fall far short of my expectations. Each chapter felt very much like a history lesson, but clear instructions on how to apply these methods in households today were lacking. I did find, and try, a recipe to help keep drains clear by using baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water, but I don’t know how effective it was yet. I could see fans of shows like Downton Abbey enjoying this history lesson this book provides, but instructions for practical application are very limited.

ACS

Passenger 19

Passenger 19 
by Ward Larsen
Oceanview Publishing, 2016. 328 pgs. Mystery

Jammer Davis has spent most of his life investigating aircraft accidents, but when he’s asked to look into a crash in the heart of the Colombian jungle, the investigation has stakes higher than any he’s ever experienced before, and not only because his daughter was on the plane that crashed. When the bodies of two passengers (including his daughter) can’t be found, and aspects of the plane crash don’t point to a mechanical failure, Davis starts to investigate further. The investigation takes him far beyond a simple plane crash and into the murky world of politics and scandals.

I realized that it was probably poor judgement on my part to read a book about a plane crash days before I take a plane trip of my own. That aside, I really enjoyed this book. The characters were interesting and well developed. Elements that seemed too convenient bothered me at first, but were later explained in a satisfying way. Though the book doesn’t reference any current politicians, it feels timely because politics do heavily affect the investigation. I can easily recommend this book, and am glad I read it.

 ACS

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Great American Whatever

The Great American Whatever
by Tim Federle
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 274 pages. Young Adult.

Quinn dreamed that he and his sister would become one of the great Hollywood movie making teams, but everything changed after she was killed in an accident. To encourage Quinn to reenter the land of the living, his best friend drags him to a college party where he meets a cute guy. Now, he has to rediscover himself, and some truths about his sister, all the while re-imagining how he wants the screenplay of his life to turn out.

 I loved the way this book was narrated. Quinn describes his thought process and imagines scenarios cinematically, at times describing the goings on as though it were a screenplay instead of real life. Quinn knows movies, and the film references throughout the book made me smile. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a unique and enjoyable coming of age story.

RC

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, With Recipes

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, With Recipes
By Shauna Niequist
Zondervan, 2013. 285 pgs. Nonfiction

As the front flap of this book says, "Bread and Wine is a collection of stories about life around the table--about family, friendships, and the meals that bring us together." This book was such a comfortable book to read, it felt like I was wrapped up in a warm blanket as I read about Shauna's life experiences.

I could almost taste the delicious food she described and since she included recipes, I can try some of them out myself! This is a book that has stayed with me over the months since I first read it. If you are looking for a thought provoking book, give this one a try.

AMM

Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution

Rebel Mechanics: All is Fair in Love and Revolution
By Shanna Swendson
Recorded Books, 2015. 320 pgs. Young Adult

Set in 1888, Verity Newton moves from her home to New York City to become a governess. She hasn't ever been a governess before, but with her spunky spirit and desire for adventure she gets along just fine. Verity begins working for a Magister family involving herself in the magical British upper-class. However, she also befriends a group of rebels who believe that steam power is the future, not magic. As she begins to spy for the rebels, yet also agreeing with the Magister's in some regards, her life really begins to be an adventure.

This steampunk alternate history novel was really fun! I'm anxious to see where the story leads. This book was filled with action, drama, and a little bit of romance. The audiobook reader was a little bit off-putting for me at first, but after a while I got used to her voice and really enjoyed listening to this book.

AMM

Tell Me Three Things

Tell Me Three Things
By Julie Buxbaum
Delacorte Press, 2016. 336 pgs. Young Adult

After losing her mother, gaining a stepmother and moving cross-country, Jessie is feeling lost. During her first week in Los Angeles, she receives an email from an anonymous fellow student calling himself Somebody/Nobody (SN) offering advice dodging the pitfalls of her new prep school. A few friends later and several weeks of relying on SN, she wants to meet. But will reality live up to her idea of Somebody/Nobody?

You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite movies and needless to say, I am drawn to the trope of the mysterious, unidentified pen pal. Jessie and SN are well-drawn characters you can’t help liking even if I correctly predicted SN's identity from the beginning. My favorite part of the novel is their funny and thoughtful text messages.

Despite the predictability and the at times forced teen drama, I still enjoyed the sweet and comical conclusion of this novel about two teens dealing with grief, identity and first love in a challenging social environment.

HSG

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane 
By Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Harper Teen, 2016. 491 pgs. Young Adult

Part comedy, part fantasy, and part romance, My Lady Jane is not what you would expect from a Lady Jane Grey retelling. Jane does become engaged to a stranger in his conspiracy to dethrone her cousin Edward, but this Jane doesn’t have to worry about that, because sometimes history itself needs a little retelling.

I would love to tell you more but I think it’s best to go into this Princess Bride-like book with as little background as possible. The narrator asides, which appear in parentheses throughout the text, are hilarious. What made this work for me, however, were the characters, who are as well-developed as the witty, tongue-in-cheek tone. I could easily connect to Jane, Gifford, and Edward, who are equally nuanced in their alternating chapters. One of the most unexpected and charming books I’ve read this year, I would happily recommend My Lady Jane to adults and young-adults-at-heart alike.

HSG

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Tea Book: All Things Tea

The Tea Book: All Things Tea
by Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby
New York: Sterling Epicure, 2015. 208 pages. NonFiction.

Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, second only to water? Or that people in Turkey drink the most tea per person, but China holds the record as the largest consumer of tea overall? I learned these and a slew of other fun facts from this fabulously informative book, The Tea Book: All Things Tea.

This book contains a lot more than a dry, boring history of tea, though it does cover that topic in vibrant detail. I thoroughly enjoyed the breakdown of tea culture in different countries and the rituals and ceremonies that have surrounded and involved tea through the ages. Additionally, it includes tips for tea tasting, best practices for steeping and preparing tea, and recipes- all of which sounded delicious! This book made my tea loving heart soar with it’s whimsical, almost infographic style illustrations, and tid bits about tea drinkers around the world. I’d recommend this beautiful, unique, and informative book for any fellow aspiring tea mavens and think it would be best enjoyed with your favorite cup of tea.

RC

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wheel of Oshiem

The Wheel of Osheim
By Mark Lawrence
Penguin Publishing Group, 2016. 432 Pages. Science Fiction

The conclusion to Mark Lawrence's second trilogy set in the world of Jorg Ancrath, Wheel of Oshiem brings back the erstwhile Prince Jalan and resolves his quest to save his sister from the clutches of the Dead King. With more responsibility than ever before thrust upon him, Prince Jalan defends his city from the undead horde, saves a caravan from the detonation of a "Builder's Sun", and saves a childhood friend from slavers. The story is interspersed with flashbacks telling of Jalan's journey through the underworld and the revelations he finds there.

Prince Jalan, despite spending the previous two books an avowed and practiced coward, receives a great deal of character development. In previous installments he mainly serves as a foil to his Norse friend Snorri as Snorri journeys through the stages of grief, but now Jalan is forced to deal with the grief in his own past and finds there is courage buried in his heart. The Wheel of Osheim's conclusion will not surprise readers of the Broken Empire series, but it will fill in some details of the story. The main draw is the growth of Jalan into something greater than he was.

JMS

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Outrun the Moon

Cover image for Outrun the moon
Outrun the Moon
By Stacey Lee
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2016, 391 pages, Young Adult Fiction

In San Francisco, Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from poverty in Chinatown, and she gains admittance to a prestigious finishing school through a mix of cunning and bribery. She soon discovers that getting in was the easiest part, and must carve a niche among the spoiled heiresses. When the earthquake strikes on April 18, 1906, Mercy and her classmates are forced to a survivor encampment, but her quick-witted leadership rallies them to help in the tragedy's aftermath.

Stacey Lee’s first book, Under a Painted Sky, was one of my favorite reads of 2015. I’ve been waiting for this book to come out with great anticipation. I love that Lee is consciously writing about historic events from diverse viewpoints, and I enjoyed seeing the world through the lens of a different culture. This book is almost two different stories: The tale of a determined young Chinese American girl trying to make her way in the world, and the tale of how San Francisco was affected by the infamous earthquake and subsequent fires. While this book deals with events that are more tragic than those that happen in Under a Painted Sky, I still liked the hopeful message and gladly recommend it.

MB

This Is the Story of You

Cover image for This Is the Story of You
This is the Story of You
By Beth Kephart
Chronicle Books, 2016, 258 pages, Young Adult Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Mira lives on a small island off the coast of New Jersey. When a devastating superstorm strikes she will face the storm's wrath and the destruction it leaves behind alone.

I love the way Beth Kephart writes. Her sentences are usually short and choppy, but they contain the most beautiful imagery. You feel more like you’re reading a poem than a novel, but it still stays fairly accessible. In this book, Kephart’s writing helps to evoke the crowding emotions involved in a horrific natural disaster. She conveys the beauty and horror of the destruction, and the sorrow of the survivors as well as their determination to see things through.

MB

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Wrath and the Dawn

The Wrath and the Dawn
by Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016. 416 pgs. Young Adult

Shahrzad has one goal: to avenge her best friend Shiva by assassinating Khalid, the young Caliph of Khorasan. Though she knows Khalid kills each of his wives the morning after marrying them, she volunteers to become his next bride, hoping to get close enough to kill the monstrous king. Delaying her death by telling him stories until dawn, Shahrzad slowly uncovers Khalid’s secrets, learning to love him against her will. Be prepared for a cliffhanger ending, since The Wrath and the Dawn’s sequel, The Rose and the Dagger was recently released.

Though some things bothered me about The Wrath and the Dawn, I would still recommend it to fans of young adult retellings. Renee Ahdieh’s generally beautiful writing can be repetitive at times, especially in her constant descriptions of Khalid’s “tiger eyes” and Shahrzad’s clothing and elfin face. The initial romance between the two characters felt unexplained, given that Shazi begins to love Khalid without any explanation or apology for her friend’s murder. In spite of those complaints, I wanted to keep reading, and I plan to read the sequel. Ahdieh creates a well-developed world and introduces many aspects of Middle Eastern culture in an accessible way. I can also say that I would have loved this book as a teenager.

A warning to careful readers and parents that there are a few non-explicit sexual scenes and references throughout the novel.

SR

Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl
by Anne Tyler
Hogarth, 2016. 240 pgs. Fiction

In this modernized retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kate Battista lives her life largely as her scientist father dictates. In accordance with his instructions, she makes nutritious but tasteless meals for the family, cares for the house, and tries to reign in her rebellious teenage sister. Her lack of tact has created problems for her at school, at work, and with friends, and she now struggles to keep her job as a preschool assistant while she lives at home. Though not happy, Kate never examines her life too closely until her father asks her to marry his laboratory assistant, whose work visa will soon expire.

There is a lot to like about Vinegar Girl. This was my first Anne Tyler read, and I fell head over heels in love with her voice. Her critically acclaimed career has been built on her wry observations about everyday people, and I often found her writing laugh out loud funny. Kate was an unusual protagonist for a novel, since she’s not especially self-aware or introspective, but I enjoyed the novelty of her character. I also felt like Tyler reimagined The Taming of the Shrew’s plot, a difficult story to modernize, in an ingenious way.

I wanted a little more of something from this short novel, but I’m not sure in the slightest what it is. More complexity? More character development? I really don’t know. Maybe I just wish it were longer so I could keep on reading.

SR

Friday, July 1, 2016

Detective Fiction

Detective Fiction 
by William Wells
The Permanent Press, 2016. 224 pgs. Mystery

When Jack Starkey retired from the Chicago PD, he thought he was done with being a homicide detective. He moved down to Fort Myers Beach in Florida and now lives on a boat. However, retirement has started to feel pretty boring so when the local police force approaches him with the opportunity for an undercover assignment, he jumps at the chance. He’s thrust into the world of the social elite and is suddenly surrounded by beautiful women, expensive cars, high-class dining, and murder. Is this the work of a serial killer, or someone with a specific agenda? It’s hard to tell, and people are still dying…

This was a fun, light read. Jack Starkey serves as inspiration and an editor for his friend who is a journalist and author of detective novels. Fans of the TV show Castle might find this book particularly enjoyable as they read about a “real life” situation, and then later read an “excerpt” from the novel, similar to how episodes of Castle played out. I enjoyed watching the struggles of an average middle-class man being thrust into high-class society and how he struggled with it, all while trying to solve the murders. I can easily recommend this to readers looking for an enjoyable mystery. The ending was left open for potential sequels, and they’re something I’ll look forward to.

ACS