Archive for the ‘Science Fiction/Fantasy’ Category

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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Another month has come and gone, and I’m back with my favorite books of the month.

Queen of Blood (Durst):  In Renthia, a Queen, a woman with the power to keep the spirits in check, brings balance to the country for as long as she is able.  The current queen Fara is powerful, yet the spirits still harm her subjects.  Daleina, a young, weak student, and her mentor, a crusty knight, struggle to bring balance to the kingdom, but, in doing so, uncover a dark secret.  I really enjoyed Daleina as a character; she is aware of her faults, but learns to work with them–something I deeply respect.  The story is also extremely compelling with lots of twists and turns–I will be watching out for the sequel.

Hillbilly Elegy (Vance):  Hillbilly Elegy has been getting a lot of recognition, and it’s well deserved. In this memoir, J.D. Vance describes his family’s history and the experience of growing up in a hillbilly family and how he managed to escape the vicious cycle of poverty that traps so many.  He also ruminates on what the hillbilly community needs to do to move out of the vicious cycle of poverty and addiction.  This is an essential read for anyone trying to understand the needs of marginalized communities.

The Stone Heart (Nameless City #2-Hicks): The sequel to Nameless City begins where Nameless City left off: the General of All Blades is working to establish the council, but other members of the Dao occupation are reluctant to give up power.  Meanwhile Kai and Rat uncover a secret the Monks of the Stone Heart have protected for centuries, and this is one that could change everything.  The Stone Heart was just as compelling as The Nameless City, and Faith Erin Hicks’ full-color illustrations excel at portraying the world and the characters’ personalities.  Fans of Avatar the Last Airbender series and stories that talk about difficult issues in lighter ways will enjoy this graphic novel series.

In the Garden of Beasts:Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (Larson):  Nonfiction writer Eric Larson tells the story of  William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Hitler’s Germany.  Larson takes the reader through Dodd’s experiences navigating encounters with key Nazi officials while dealing with the power struggles and indifference to the results of Nazis’ hateful rhetoric from home.  Given that we all know the end of the story, this is a fascinating and accessible look at individual and national response to a crisis in the making.

That’s all!  Catch you next time!

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Towers Trilogy (Karen Sumner-Smith):  In a world where magic is currency and status, Xhea, who has no magic of her own, scrapes out a meager existence in the Lower City by plying her ability to see ghosts.  One day, a man from one of the floating Towers, brings her a glowing ghost and asks her to hold onto it.   The ghost Shai and Xhea form a friendship that will change the world of the Lower City and the Towers.   Xhea and Shai’s characterizations are both excellent, and their friendship drives a compelling story about privilege and change.  Read this series if you’re looking for  a good story about female friendships changing the world.

How to understand Israel in 60 days or less (Glidden): Cartoonist Sarah Glidden documents her experiences on a Jewish birthright tour to Israel and her struggles to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Glidden effectively takes the reader through her reflections and gives a nuanced picture of life in Israel.  While this would not be a good primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, readers will find themselves wanting to know more.
Passenger Duology (Bracken):  Etta is a world-class violinist; on the dawn of a major performance, she is spirited away from her world and flung back to the American Revolution.  The patriarch of the Ironwood family, the most powerful time traveler family, wants her to track down an astrolobe, a powerful time travel artifact, and he holds her mother hostage to ensure her cooperation.  Nicholas-a young man under the thumb of the Ironwood family, is pulled into the quest as well.  Together, Etta and Nicholas  have to work against the clock and learn about this new world.  Bracken delivers an engaging time travel story about discovering your place.  This YA series will be sure to leave readers on the edge of their seats.
Binti: Home (Okorafor):  While Binti has been enjoying her time at the Oozma University, she still struggles with her experiences during her trip out to the intergalactic University.   To settle herself, she decides to return home in order to center herself.   However, Binti’s experiences have significantly changed her–will she be able reintegrate herself into the community she left behind?  The sequel to Okorafor’s Binti is just as imaginative as the first book; Nnedi Okorafor expands the setting considerably as Binti navigates her time at home.  Check this out if you are looking for awesome science fiction!

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Another month has come and gone, and that means another top books of the month are in order!  Here are the books that I especially enjoyed this month.

The Bear and the Nightingale (Arden): Vasilisa lives with her father and siblings in the far north of Rus. Vasilisa is a wild child, who has the ability to talk with the spirits and folk creatures-an ability that is very dangerous to have in her Christian world.  When her world is threatened by a dark force that has long since lain dormant, Vasilisa will have to muster her strength and few allies in order to defeat it.   I absolutely adored this book! Katherine Arden skillfully builds Vasilisa ‘s world so that I was fully immersed in this cold, wild setting, and I loved Vasilia’s freedom and determination.  Fans of fairy tales and strong female protagonists will love this one.

Catastrophic Care (Goldhill): The American health care system is a major point of contention, and the debate on how to fix it is fierce.  David Goldhill makes a compelling argument for changes that would dismantle the current system: he claims that by using insurance to pay for  health care, the system is not accountable to its customers–which drives up costs and the frequency of medical error.   In addition to pointing out these issues, Goldhill lays out a thoughtful solution that is worth poring over.  Catastrophic Care is a fascinating read for anyone who’s looking for insight into the issues in the system and a possible solution.

Norse Mythology (Gaiman): I’m sure this one will be on folks’ radar, but I really enjoyed Gaiman’s Norse Mythology.  Gaiman skillfully captures the humor and power of some of the classic Norse myths and breathes life and humor into the stories.  Of course, every writer will leave their mark on the telling, and Gaiman is no different–and I love what he did!  Fans of Gaiman and/or Norse mythology will want to check this one out.

City of Saints and Thieves (Anderson): Christina considers herself an excellent thief: she works for the Goondas, a street gang in Kenya, and she has proven herself to be capable in her role, which is very different from the usual role girls in the gang have.  For years, Christina has planned revenge against Mr. Grayhill, the murderer of her mother, who had entered his household as a refugee.  When the first part of her plan–break into Grayhill’s mansion to steal information–goes horribly awry, Christina has to journey to her native Congo to uncover her mother’s secrets in order to solve the mystery.   Natalie C. Anderson has created a smart, sympathetic heroine in Christina and a thrilling story that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.

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

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