Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Another year has gone, and now it’s time to list my favorite books of the year!  I’m going to loosely categorize books this year, but I hope you find something here to enjoy!  Happy reading!


  • Circe (Madeline Miller)–Circe–the witch  in The Odyssey--gets her own narrative in Madeline Miller’s novel, which tells the story of a young woman trying to find her place and understand her abilities.  Miller has a knack for balancing the source material while still criticizing it; she also forges new territory and creates a narrative that is a joy to read.  If you like strong female protagonists and mythology, check this one out.
  • Skyward (Brandon Sanderson): Spensa wants to fly and fight, but, because her father was a traitor to the human cause, she will never get accepted into flight school.  However, Spensa is determined to fly.  Skyward is a fun read full of heart: the action is top notch, the worldbuilding is compelling as Sanderson’s other work, and I love Spensa’s character arc.  I especially loved Spensa’s characterization–her love of epics comes out in her frequently hilarious and gory speeches, and I can’t wait for the sequel.


  • About Betty’s Boob (Vero Cazat)-After Betty loses her breasts to breast cancer, her fiancé breaks it off with her.  Betty finds her place and passion among a cabaret show.  This mostly wordless graphic novel is a wonderful story of self-discovery and acceptance; Betty’s joy is captured beautifully on the pages.
  • The Divided Earth–I loved the last book in Faith Erin Hicks’ series The Nameless City: the protagonists, teens Kai and Rat, are great characters who I’ve enjoyed following. The Divided Earth is a satisfying conclusion to a story where Kai and Rat–two people from different nations–help the inhabitants of a conquered city work to develop a more positive relationship with their current conquerors.  Check this series out especially if you like Avatar the Last Airbender–it strikes the same balance of humor and thoughtfulness.


  • Killers of the Flower Moon (David Grann): I read this back at the beginning of the year, and it’s stayed with me.   Grann unfolds the story of  the Osage Indian Nation, which managed to keep their land and grow rich on the oil.  However, a series of deaths reveals a sinister web of murder and terror intended to wrest control of their wealth away from the tribe members.  Grann does a great job of developing the cast and various threads that go into this compelling piece of true crime.
  • How To Be A Good Creature (Sy Montgomery)-I loved Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus a few years back, and so I was really looking forward to Montgomery’s latest. I was not disappointed: How To Be A Good Creature tells a series of short stories about important animals in Montgomery’s life–among them a large pig, several dogs, a pair of emus, and a spider.  The stories are all touching and wonderful to read–this is a great one if you’re looking for some lighter nonfiction.



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Hi everyone, I’m back with another themed list!  This time, I will talking about some of my favorite books that have mythological or folkloric roots or are adaptations.   If you can’t get enough of Greek and Norse mythology or folk tales, read on.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, is probably the main work that folks think of when they think about mythologically inspired works.  For those unfamiliar, American Gods features Shadow, an ex-con hired by Mr. Wednesday to aid him in his quest to unite the Old World gods against the modern gods in a battle for the loyalty– and accompanying power– of the American people. By pulling characters from multiple pantheons, Gaiman also created a compelling story that explores identity and belief.  American Gods has a decent number of echoes from Norse Mythology–such as Odin’s sacrifice on the World Tree and Ragnarok (you gotta love the end of the world happening at a tourist attraction).  Gaiman also recently published his own fantastic collection retelling Norse Myths that you should definitely check out!

George O’Connor’s Olympians series is a wonderful graphic adaptation of the Greek myths.  Each volume of O’ Connor’s series covers one of the main gods or goddesses.  In addition to engaging and clear artwork, O’Connor excels at boiling down the stories and making them accessible to a wide range of ages (even though you technically will find them in the kid’s section of most bookstores!).  This series is helpful for both revisiting the myths as well as introducing new readers.

Jordanna Max Brodsky’s Olympus Bound series features Selene, the goddess Artemis, who has made herself a life as a PI in New York. While she has lost much of her power, she is still stalking the streets protecting women.  When someone starts murdering people in a way that mirrors ancient Greek cult practices, Selene must enlist the help of classics professor Theo Schultz to track down the killers revealing a darker game that involves members of her family.  Brodsky keeps just enough of the nature of the gods to make them recognizable, but she also uses the story to point to problematic aspects of the mythology and develop the characters. Fans of prickly, tough heroines and grisly murder will find much to like in the Olympus Bound series.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden has elements of Russian folklore, fairy tale themes, and an amazing female protagonist–a potent combination that you won’t want to miss! Vasilisa has always been able to see the spirits and has embraced her gift, even though it sparks conflict with her religious stepmother and the zealous local priest.  When an old evil starts to awaken, Vasilisa, with the help of the god of the winter, may be the only one to make sure her village survives. Arden has created a vivid picture of a fantastical, old Russia, full of folk spirits faced with the rise of Christianity. Vasilisa’s is a wonderful protagonist, whose uncompromising desire to be herself takes the story in interesting directions. There is a sequel, The Girl in the Tower, if you find that you need more Vasilisa.

Isabel Greenberg’s graphic novel One Hundred Nights of Hero’s Arabian nights-inspired story is headed by an awesome couple, Cherry and Hero, who are caught in a cruel wager between Cherry’s husband and one of his friends. To save herself and her love, Hero tells the husband’s friend several stories from a secret storytelling society in order to distract him from his goal. Greenberg’s artwork and original mythology give the story an old-timey feeling–a perfect setting for this compelling and heartwarming story.

Well, that’s all for this month.  Catch you next time!

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If you live in the United States, you may already know that March is Women’s History month.  For this month’s post, I’m going to share a short list of biographies about women that I really enjoyed!

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Rosalind Rosenberg): Pauli Murray was a lawyer and activist whose own struggles with racism and her gender identity informed her fights against discrimination; she is considered the first person to have drawn comparisons between racial and gender discrimination and laid the foundation for the arguments for the Fourteenth Amendment. She fought for equality while struggling  with her own gender identity.  Rosenberg does a great job of telling Murray’s fascinating story and the many interesting experiences she had, including serving as a professor at Brandeis and entering the priesthood.  This was easily one of the most fascinating nonfiction books I read last year, so you don’t want to miss it!

Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly):  I absolutely adored Hidden Figures, which tells the story of  NASA’s “human computers”, women who performed the calculations for several key NASA missions.   Shetterly weaves the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and  Christine Darden–gifted black women who, while working during the Jim Crow era, made key contributions to the NASA Space Race, including John Glenn’s mission to orbit the earth.  The book is more nuanced than the movie, so don’t hesitate to check out Hidden Figures!

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (Megan Marshall):  This biography focuses on Margaret Fuller, intellectual and journalist; Fuller was fascinating both for the pushes she made in her own career as well as her efforts to push women to make contributions to intellectual life.  Marshall balances Fuller’s personal accomplishments with her inner life, making this portrayal extremely nuanced and relatable.

The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howl and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl (Elisabeth Gitter):  Before Helen Keller, there was Laura Bridgman.  Laura Bridgman became deaf and blind at a young age; Samuel Howe, the founder of the Perkins School, discovered and educated her in order to promote his program.  Gitter develops strong, nuanced portraits of both Bridgman and Howe as well as the perceptions and culture that shaped Laura’s education and expectations for her behavior as a disabled woman. Gitter has an extremely accessible style that makes this book an easy and fascinating read that should appeal to non-fans of history.


I hope you enjoyed this list.  I would like to do more themed lists in the future, so if you have lists you’d like to see, please comment!


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Hi everyone, another year’s come and gone.   Even though this year was challenging, there were lots of good books to be read.  Here are my favorites from the past year!


The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden):  This rich tale of a willful, unusual girl was easily one of my favorites this year.  Arden creates a vivid Russian-inspired world with a folkloric plot and a wonderful protagonist–I absolutely adored it, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Passing Strange/Portable Childhoods/ Wicked Wonders (Ellen Klages ): Klages’ work is delightful; I love her settings and characters, many of which are girls and young women trying to navigate their world; her short stories include a young woman who relates to Maleficent and a girl raised by feral librarians.  Passing Strange, her novel, features awesome space and time magic and a queer relationship in 1940s San Francisco.  I like that she tends to present ordinary matters from a slightly different perspective, and her magic and characters are intriguing.  Check out her work–you won’t be disappointed.

Sparrow Hill Road (Seanan McGuire):  This story features Rose Marshall, a young woman who was run off the road for her soul.  Since her death, Rose has helped other individuals on their quests while looking for a way to bring down Bobby Cross, the greedy soul who killed her.  The ghost world McGuire creates is just awesome, and I like that each chapter stands alone but still connects into a narrative.


Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Rosalind Rosenberg):  I had never heard of Pauli Murray before reading Jane Crow, and man was she awesome!  Murray, a mixed race individual, was a lawyer and activist who fought for equal rights and is the first person to draw the connection between racism and sexism and laid the groundwork for the Fourteenth Amendment.   She fought for equality amid her own struggles with her gender identity, and her journey took her to all sorts of places, including a professorship at Brandeis and the priesthood.  Rosenberg has written an engaging biography about this fascinating individual; if you’re into civil rights history and/or LGBTQ history, pick this one up.

The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance ( Anders Rydell):  In The Book Thieves, Rydell traces the story of the fate of the Jewish libraries and personal collections during the Holocaust: many were separated from their libraries and frequently absorbed into collections in Germany or other parts of the world.  He also tells the story of individuals who have worked to return these books to their rightful homes.  It was both fascinating and disturbing to see how the Nazis’ actions destroyed these collections and the continuing impact of those horrible actions.

Catastrophic Care (David Goldhill):  I read this one fairly early in the year, but it’s stuck with me.  Goldhill agrees that the health care system needs to change, but rather than advocating for single-payer care, he points out rising health care costs and argues for a new way to pay for care that does not rely exclusively on insurance; he also advocates for greater patient participation in the marketplace.  I found his book an interesting read in the healthcare conversation.

Graphic Novels:

One Hundred Nights of Hero (Isabel Greenberg):  When lovers Cherry and Hero get caught in a cruel game between two men, Hero steps in to tell stories from an all-woman storytelling collective to save Cherry and herself.  In addition to a compelling narrative, Greenberg’s unique art adds a kind of old-timey charm that makes One Hundred Nights of Hero a beautiful book and absorbing read.

Pashmina (Nidhi Chanani)-Priyanka, an Indian American teen,  is struggling to find.  She wants to know about her father and the reason her mother left India, but her mother remains tight-lipped   After Priyanka finds a pashmina (a kind of shawl), she begins to see visions of a bright, beautiful India.  Priyanka embarks on a journey to discover her family’s stories and her own strength.  Pashmina is a heartwarming graphic novel: I loved Priyanka’s story arc and the message about the importance of choice is expertly woven in.  Chanani’s expressive art excels at capturing key moments and moods; I enjoyed the book so much that I read it through multiple times!

That’s all for 2017!  Happy 2018, all!

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Hi folks, I know it’s been awhile since I posted, and I apologize.  The later part of my summer got quite busy, and I didn’t have a lot of extra time to write posts.  So I’m going to write up some of the books I especially enjoyed these last few months.

I loved Rosalind Rosenberg’s Jane Crow, which told the story of the life of Pauli Murray, a black lawyer who was one of the first to draw parallels between racism and sexism to argue for the Fourteenth Amendment.  Murray’s actions for civil rights and her own struggle with gender identity was fascinating, and I saw so many of her struggles in current events. This book will likely interest readers interested in civil rights history and gender studies.

Next up is Amila Khan’s Adapt.  In Adapt, Khan describes inventions and constructions inspired by biology.   From a building whose cooling system was inspired by termite mounds to computer problem-solving based on ant behavior, you will find lots of interesting information here!  Khan does a really good job of explaining the concepts without getting too technical, and, between her approachable style and the content, you’ll want to keep reading.    If you want to read some cool scientific nonfiction, look no further.

I also discovered the work of Ellen Klages; I first encountered her work when I read Passing Strange, which feature a group of women in San Francisco in 1940.   When two of their group, run into trouble, they will have to use a special magic to get the couple’s happy ending.  I was captivated by Passing Strange‘s magical setting, so, from there I moved onto Klages’ short story collections, Wicked Wonders and Portable Childhoods Klages’ stories portray strong frequently female characters frequently going against the grain or following a nontraditional path.  Her work reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s in that her stories look at things a  little differently.  If you haven’t checked out this author yet, you really should.

I apologize again for the radio silence, and I hope you enjoyed this update!  I have been considering themed lists to occasionally take the place of the top books of the month posts.  If you have any ideas, be sure to let me know!

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Another month has passed, and that means it’s time for me to talk about the books I especially enjoyed this month.

The first one I’m going to talk about is Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road:  Rose Marshall’s life ended when Bobby Cross ran her off the road; now she hitchhikes across the United States, protecting travelers and guiding those whom she can’t save to the afterlife.  As her reputation grows, Rose appears in a variety of ghost tales and legends. However, Bobby Cross still stalks the roads, and Rose decides to take matters into her own hands.  Seanan McGuire has created a compelling story that winds its way through a unique ghostly ecosystem.   For those who find some of McGuire’s other works too brief, this one might satisfy their need for longer works from this author.

Next up is Sarah Beth Durst’s The Lost.  One day, Lauren drives straight instead of taking the turn and drives until she ends up in the town of Lost.  The desolate Lost is filled with individuals seeking what they’ve lost, but never getting anywhere.  With responsibilities weighing heavily on her, Lauren tries to leave only to find she can’t. In order to leave, Lauren will have to figure out what she lost.  This story has a compelling, eerie setting, and Durst uses it well as she unfolds an intriguing, relatable, and creepy story.

As a librarian and bibliophile, I was compelled to pick up Anders Rydell’s The Book Thieves.  The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance tells the story of the fate of many of the Jewish libraries throughout Europe.  Over the course of the book,  Anders Rydell traces the likely fate of these collections through the War and after the fact. Ryell’s descriptions of how the Nazis pillaged the libraries and separated the materials before reforming them collections meant to serve Nazi goals is disturbing.  Even as Rydell tells this story of the destruction of the original libraries, he also discusses the efforts to return books to the original owners or their descendants. Librarians and book lovers with a taste for history should find this equal parts fascinating and sad.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters follows Karen, a girl who fills her days documenting her favorite monsters and her life in her notebook .  After  the lady upstairs, Anka, dies mysteriously, Karen decides to investigate Anka’s story.  As she uncovers the story of Anka, Karen comes to learn secrets about others around her and discover things about herself. My Favorite Thing is Monsters is an intriguing graphic novel from newcomer Emil Ferris; with its wonderful colored pencil  illustrations and unique story, this coming of age tale will be sure to fascinate.

In Angie Thoma’s The Hate U Give, Starr lives two lives: she attends a college preparatory school, but she still lives in one of the poorer Black neighborhoods.  She keeps these two lives separate until, one day, a cop murders her childhood friend, Khalil, As speculation swirls and loyalties are tested, Starr will have to navigate her grief and an increasingly dangerous situation in order to find her voice.  The Hate U Give’s well-developed cast and strong interpersonal relationships are the story’s backbone, and the author successfully  highlights the racism and socioeconomic issues that confront this country in an approachable way.  I’m looking forward to seeing more from Angie Thomas.

When I saw that Janet Mock’s new memoir, Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me, was out, I immediately acquired a copy.  In this memoir, Mock  explores her first love and marriage, and her journey to break into journalism. Mock’s insights, delivered in a conversational style, make this a swift, engaging read, and readers who enjoyed Mock’s first memoir, Redefining Realness, will likely enjoy this one as well.  

That’s all, folks!  Catch you next month!

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May has come and gone, and it is time to discuss my favorite books of the month!  

First up is Brian McClellan’s Sins of Empire.  In Fatrasta, powder mage Lady Vlora Flint and her mercenary group, the Riflejacks, are tracking down a political rebel at the behest of the Lady Chancellor; they are aided by MIchel Bravis,a member of the Lady Chancellor’s own secret police, and Ben Stykes, a former cavalry officer .  Although she fled to escape the politics of her home country, Vlora quickly finds herself embroiled in a political battle as the Chancellor’s secret police vie for control with the rebels. The situation becomes dire when an artifact that will change everything is discovered.  I greatly enjoyed McClellan’s Powder Mage series (which I’ve talked about on this blog), and Sins of Empire is the beginning of what has the potential to be another great series. The worldbuilding is compelling, and the narrative is full of action and humor; I also enjoyed reading the story for both the reintroduction of old characters and some new faces.  


Next, I especially enjoyed One Hundred Nights of Hero, by Isabel Greenberg.  This graphic novel follows Cherry and Hero, two lovers who are caught in a diabolical wager between two men.  To save herself and her lover, Hero tells stories collected by a secret, all-female storytelling group. This kick-ass feminist fairy tale will be a hit with those who like non-traditional fairy tales and stories that riff off classical fairy tales.


K.B. Wagers’ Behind the Throne and After the Crown follow Hail, a former gun runner who returns to her family’s kingdom to solve the mystery of her sisters’ murders and assume the birthright she had previously fled.  The first two volumes in this science fiction trilogy are action-packed with plenty of humor and wit; Hail’s snarkiness.   Pick up this up if you are looking for a fast-paced science fiction read.


Last, but certainly not least, is Hidden Figures, which tells the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden–four African American women who worked for NASA during the early days of space research and the Space Race.   Despite living in the South during Jim Crow, these incredibly intelligent and talented women successfully contributed to key NASA projects and missions, including John Glenn’s mission to orbit the earth.  With great detail and charm, Margaret Lee Shetterly unfolds these women’s stories, and the story she unfolds is far more intriguing and nuanced (and with fewer white savior overtones) than the film.  If you are passionate about stories with strong women-particularly women of color-pick this one up.

That’s all, folks!  Catch you next month!

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