Monday, September 17, 2018

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Kindred book coverWritten in 1979 by Octavia Butler, winner of multiple Hugo awards, Kindred tells the story of Dana, a young black woman living in 1976 California. One day she is inexplicably transported back in time to antebellum Maryland, where she saves a young white boy named Rufus from drowning before being whisked back to her own living room, still dripping wet. She makes this journey to the past several times over the course of the summer, each time seemingly to rescue Rufus at various points throughout his life. The duration of her visits to the past is unpredictable, ranging from minutes to months and while she is there, she is forced to live as a slave. As she unravels her connection to Rufus and his family, she also experiences the consequences, both mental and physical, of slavery.

Readers who usually avoid science fiction should not be put off by this book. Time travel is simply used as a device to view slavery from a 20th century perspective and this novel will appeal to anyone interested in historical fiction, especially relating to race.

Kindred is also available as a graphic novel adaptation.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Perfect Mother book coverThe Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy is on the surface a story about the abduction of an infant. However, in depth, it is the story of motherhood, its burdens and its rewards.

A thriller with multiple storylines and twists, The Perfect Mother focuses on a “Mommy Group” called the May Mothers. When one of the mothers’ children is taken, the secrets and insecurities of all of the group members are slowly revealed. Told from multiple perspectives, the book switches narrators each chapter, which some people might find initially confusing, but this reader found to allow a more in-depth storytelling. The characters are diverse and unique but brought together through the shared experience of new motherhood, each struggling with and processing events in very different but very realistic ways. This is not a formulaic thriller, where the reader can guess the outcome of the story. This is a unique story with an I-did-not-see-that-coming conclusion that should be read!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Anatomy of a Scandal book coverSophie thinks James is innocent. Kate will do everything she can to prove that he is guilty. All of them hold secrets, and all have told lies, but the truth must be in there somewhere. But is the truth an actual, concrete thing, or is it what the rich and powerful say is most convenient for them? James, Sophie, and Kate have plenty of dark secrets that have long been buried, and now that they are threatening to come to light, they might just bring down the carefully constructed house of cards.

Full of empowering female characters and timely resonance with the #MeToo movement, Anatomy of a Scandal will keep you turning the pages until the very end.

Monday, August 27, 2018

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay book cover Marin has lost a lot in her life. She lost her dad before she was even born. She lost her mom when she was only a toddler. She lost her best friend (and sort-of-girlfriend) Mabel when she left for college a few months ago. And only days after that, she lost her grandpa, who spent her entire life raising her. That last blow-- losing the last of her family-- and the revelations that followed-- her grandfather’s darkest secrets coming to light-- nearly destroyed her. She fled across the country to her new college and stopped returning her friends’ calls and texts. She hid in self-imposed isolation, haunted by her own grief and loneliness, until just now. Now, it’s Christmas break, and Mabel, her best friend and first love, is coming for a visit. It will be the first time they’ve seen each other since before her grandpa’s death. Neither of them knows where they stand or what’s to come, but it will definitely be a weekend that changes everything.

Although marketed as an LGBT book, it’s much more a book about grief and isolation and loneliness and coping (or failing to cope). If you’ve ever experienced an existential shock in your life, you may recognize a lot from Marin’s journey. It’s a very emotionally evocative book, and you really want Marin to be okay by the end of it. I would compare it to If I Stay, as a book with a relatively simple plot over a short period of time, but full of flashbacks and emotional depth and a strong sense of the characters involved.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Blueprints book cover Blueprints revolves around a family-owned business called “Gut It” (another HGTV show about renovating houses). Jamie's father wants to make her the new fresh face of “Gut It”, which means moving her mom, Caroline, off the front lines. Things are derailed when Jamie's father and his current wife are killed in a car accident, leaving Jamie as the only logical solution to raise their son. So now the family has to grapple with issues of age disparity and family legacy. When exactly are we too old to step aside and allow someone younger to replace us? Who will take over the family throne?

Other issues brought out, especially those involving relationships, make the reader ask challenging questions: How much time should I devote to finding Mr. Right? Can this be love already? When is it too soon to get married? Do adult children still need their parents? Do parents still want to be needed by their adult children? What’s off-limits in parent/child talks? These are just a few of the thought provoking questions spinning through this novel.

The audiobook reader had to switch between several different personalities throughout the book. Readers who prefer audiobooks should feel free to listen and judge for themselves, but I thought the child voices sounded whiny, and the male voices were not as masculine as I would have liked. Still, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Girls Burn Brighter book cover When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Suddenly their Indian village doesn't feel quite so claustrophobic, as the two form a once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India's underworld, on a harrowing cross continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls' perspectives as they face relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them. A page turner and a heart wrenching mediation on friendship, Rao's debut novel tackles the most urgent issues facing women today: domestic abuse, human trafficking, immigration, and feminism. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Dragon Slippers book cover Creel's family, tired of being poor, decides that the best solution is to get her kidnapped by a dragon so that a rich prince can rescue and marry her. This seems like an empty threat, since no one alive has ever seen a dragon, so when they leave her outside a cave, Creel isn't worried... until a dragon actually does come out and kidnap her, albeit reluctantly.

When Creel talks her way out of captivity, the dragon lets her take a gift from his hoard, and she chooses a pair of blue slippers. She travels around the kingdom, meets other dragons, and eventually settles in the capital city, where she works in a dress shop and becomes known for her exquisite embroidery. Even the crown prince takes an interest. But other dragons are stirring, too, and someone is threatening war, and there seems to be some kind of fuss about her shoes...

Dragon Slippers is a very cute book with a very cool take on dragon lore-- with dragons hoarding everything from shoes to stained glass windows to actual live dogs. Creel is a wonderful main character, and her adventures with dragons and dresses are fun and engaging. This would be a great choice for fans of Dealing with Dragons or other middle-grade fantasy.