Friday, June 26, 2020

The 35 Books in Our Summer TBR Stack

It's that time! RFS reviewers will be taking a small break from reviewing to focus on our families for the summer. Don't worry! We'll be back in September with more exciting reviews and reading-related content.  Until then, here's a preview of our summer to-be-read stack! (in no particular order)

Images from Amazon.com.  Summary credit to Goodreads.com.

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse: A Novel by ...The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

This is the story of Father Damien Modeste, priest to his beloved people, the Ojibwe. Modeste, nearing the end of his life, dreads the discovery of his physical identity -- for he is a woman who has lived as a man.

For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved people, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. To complicate his fears, his quiet life changes when a troubled colleague comes to the reservation to investigate the life of the perplexing, difficult, possibly false saint Sister Leopolda. Father Damien alone knows the strange truth of Sister Leopolda's piety and is faced with the most difficult decision of his life: Should he reveal all he knows and risk everything? Or should he manufacture a protective history though he believes Leopolda's wonder-working is motivated by evil?


The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel - Kindle edition by Allen ...
The Girl Who Chased the Moon 
by Sarah Addison Allen

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world--no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew--a reclusive, real-life gentle giant--she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes--which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost ...The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler

In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived on Roanoke, an island off the coast of North Carolina. Chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, their colony was to establish a foothold for England in the New World. But by the time the colony's leader, John White, returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission in England, his settlers were nowhere to be found. They had vanished into the wilderness, leaving behind only a single clue--the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree.

The disappearance of the Lost Colony became an enduring American mystery. For four centuries, it has gone unsolved, obsessing countless historians, archeologists, and amateur sleuths. Today, after centuries of searching in vain, new clues have begun to surface. In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler offers a beguiling history of the Lost Colony, and of the relentless quest to bring its fate to light. He accompanies competing archaeologists as they seek out evidence, each team hoping to be the first to solve the riddle. In the course of his journey, Lawler explores how the Lost Colony came to haunt our national consciousness, working its way into literature, popular culture, and politics.

Incisive and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the Lost Colony, but of how its absence continues to define--and divide--America.

Verses for the Dead (Agent Pendergast Series (18)): Preston ...Verses for the Dead 
by Preston & Child

Preston & Child return with their #1 bestselling series, confronting FBI Special Agent Pendergast with the one challenge he never expected: a partner.

After an overhaul of leadership at the FBI's New York field office, A. X. L. Pendergast is abruptly forced to accept an unthinkable condition of continued employment: the famously rogue agent must now work with a partner.

Pendergast and his new teammate, junior agent Coldmoon, are assigned to Miami Beach, where a rash of killings by a bloodthirsty psychopath is distinguished by a confounding M.O.: cutting out the hearts of his victims and leaving them--along with cryptic handwritten letters--at local gravestones, unconnected save for one bizarre detail: all belonged to women who committed suicide.

But the seeming lack of connection between the old suicides and the new murders is soon the least of Pendergast's worries. As he digs deeper, he realizes the brutal new crimes may be just the tip of the iceberg: a conspiracy of death that reaches back decades.


Amazon.com: Fish in a Tree eBook: Hunt, Lynda Mullaly: Kindle StoreFish in a Tree 
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.





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Amazon.com: An Ember in the Ashes eBook: Tahir, Sabaa: Kindle StoreAn Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.



One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams-Garcia - PaperbackOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.
In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.













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Flowers in the Gutter by K. R. Gaddy: 9780525555414 ...Flowers in the Gutter: The True story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers who Resisted the Nazis 
by K.R. Gaddy

Photo-illustrated nonfiction, the story of the Edelweiss Pirates, a group of working-class teens who not only survived but resisted the Nazis by whatever means they could, even when they knew it could cost them their lives.

Flowers in the Gutter is told from the points of view Gertrude, Fritz, and Jean, three young people from working-class neighborhoods in Cologne, beginning with their pre-school years at the dawn of the Third Reich in the 1930s. Gaddy shows how political activism was always a part of their lives and how they witnessed first-hand the toll it took on their parents--and how they still carried the torch for justice when it was their turn.

Once the war began, Gertrude, Fritz, and Jean and their friends survived and even resisted in one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany. Gaddy includes tense accounts of fights with Hitler Youth and the Gestapo, of disseminating anti-Nazi pamphlets, of helping POWs and forced laborers, and even of sabotaging Nazi factories. Ultimately, the war ended tragically for several young pirates, and Gaddy shows how post-war politics and prejudices led to these young men and women being branded criminals for decades after the war.


Race to the Sun - Kindle edition by Roanhorse, Rebecca. Children ...Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he's Mr. Charles, her dad's new boss at the oil and gas company, and he's alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he's a threat, but her father won't believe her.

When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says "Run!", the siblings and Nizhoni's best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . .

Timeless themes such as the importance of family and respect for the land resonate in this funny, fast-paced, and exciting quest adventure set in the American Southwest.


If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauleyIf These Wings Could Fly 
by Kyrie McCauley

Tens of thousands of crows invading Auburn, Pennsylvania, is a problem for everyone in town except seventeen-year-old Leighton Barnes. For Leighton, it's no stranger than her house, which inexplicably repairs itself every time her father loses his temper and breaks things.

Leighton doesn't have time for the crows--it's her senior year, and acceptance to her dream college is finally within reach. But grabbing that lifeline means abandoning her sisters, a choice she's not ready to face.

With her father's rage worsening and the town in chaos over the crows, Leighton allows herself a chance at happiness with Liam, her charming classmate, even though falling in love feels like a revolutionary act.

Balancing school, dating, and survival under the shadow of sixty thousand feathered wings starts to feel almost comfortable, but Leighton knows that this fragile equilibrium can only last so long before it shatters.

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places ...The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

Weiner spent a decade as a foreign correspondent reporting from such discontented locales as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Indonesia. Unhappy people living in profoundly unstable states, he notes, inspire pathos and make for good copy, but not for good karma. So Weiner, admitted grump and self-help book aficionado, undertook a year's research to travel the globe, looking for the "unheralded happy places." The result is this book, equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and philosophical, a journey into both the definition of and the destination for true contentment.

Apparently, the happiest places on earth include, somewhat unexpectedly, Iceland, Bhutan, and India. Weiner also visits the country deemed most malcontent, Moldova, and finds real merit in the claim.

But the question remains: What makes people happy? Is it the freedom of the West or the myriad restrictions of Singapore? The simple ashrams of India or the glittering shopping malls of Qatar?

From the youthful drunkenness of Iceland to the despond of Slough, a sad but resilient town in Heathrow's flight path, Weiner offers wry yet profound observations about the way people relate to circumstance and fate.

Both revealing and inspirational, perhaps the best thing about this hilarious trip across four continents is that for the reader, the "geography of bliss" is wherever they happen to find themselves while reading it.


Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaMexican Gothic 
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.


The Only Good Indians - Kindle edition by Jones, Stephen Graham ...The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The creeping horror of Paul Tremblay meets Tommy Orange’s There There in a dark novel of revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.









Amazon.com: A Burning: A novel eBook: Majumdar, Megha: Kindle StoreA Burning by Megha Majumdar

Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely--an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor--has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.

Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary debut.






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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel - Kindle edition by ...Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore 
by Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls.




Suzanne Collins: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger ...The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.




Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: 9780147515827 ...Brown Girl Dreaming 
by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.






My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry: A Novel - Kindle ...My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry 
by Fredrik Backman

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.



Catherine House by Elisabeth ThomasCatherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you . . .


Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.

For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

Amazon.com: HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act At a Time ...HumanKind: Changing the Wolrd One Small Act at a Time 
by Brad Aronson

These heartwarming true stories of people doing good in the world are just what we need right now.

Brad Aronson's life changed in an instant when his wife, Mia, was diagnosed with leukemia. After her diagnosis, Brad spent most of the next two and a half years either by her side as she received treatment or trying to shield their five-year-old son, Jack, from the worst of Mia's illness. Amid the stress and despair of waiting for the treatment to work, Brad and Mia were met by an outpouring of kindness from friends, family and even complete strangers.

Inspired by the many demonstrations of "humankindness" that supported their family through Mia's recovery, Brad began writing about the people who rescued his family from that dark time, often with the smallest of gestures. But he didn't stop there. Knowing that simple acts of kindness transform lives across the globe every day, he sought out these stories and shares some of the best ones here.

In HumanKind, you'll meet the mentor who changed a child's life with a single lesson in shoe tying, the six-year-old who launched a global kindness movement, the band of seamstress grandmothers who mend clothes for homeless people, and many other heroes.

Brad also provides dozens of ways you can make a difference through the simplest words and deeds. You'll discover how buying someone a meal or sharing a little encouragement at the right time can change someone's world, as well as your own....HumanKind will leave you grateful for what you have and provide a refuge from the negativity that surrounds us. This feel-good book will touch your heart. You'll laugh, you'll cry and you'll be reminded of what really matters.


The Glass Hotel: A novel - Kindle edition by Mandel, Emily St ...The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts, and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it.

Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass and cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it's the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent's half-brother, Paul, scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: "Why don't you swallow broken glass." Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.


The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by ...
The Color of Water by James McBride

Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.

The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion--and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.

In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.

At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all-black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college--and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.

Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self-realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.


Breaking Through by Francisco Jimenez, Francisco Jimtnez ...Breaking Through 
by Francisco Jiménez

At the age of fourteen, Francisco Jiménez, together with his older brother Roberto and his mother, are caught by la migra. Forced to leave their home in California, the entire family travels all night for twenty hours by bus, arriving at the U.S. and Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona. In the months and years that follow during the late 1950s-early 1960s, Francisco, his mother and father, and his seven brothers and sister not only struggle to keep their family together, but also face crushing poverty, long hours of labor, and blatant prejudice. How they sustain their hope, their good-heartedness, and tenacity is revealed in this moving, Pura Belpré Honor-winning sequel to The Circuit. Without bitterness or sentimentality, Francisco Jiménez finishes telling the story of his youth.





Such a Fun Age - Kindle edition by Reid, Kiley. Literature ...
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix's efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.





The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.

Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina's grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.








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Circe by Madeline Miller, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®Circe by Madeline Miller

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens ...The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens 
by Sean Covey

The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

In The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make, Sean Covey, author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, gives teens the strong advice they need to make informed and wise decisions.Using real stories from teens around the world, Sean shows teens how to succeed in school, make good friends, get along with parents, wisely handle dating and sex issues, avoid or overcome addictions, build self-esteem, and much more. Jam-packed with original cartoons, inspiring quotes, and fun quizzes, this innovative book will help teens not only survive but thrive during their teen years and beyond.

Building upon the legacy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this is an indispensable resource for teens everywhere.

Amazon.com: Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation ...Blood Magic: The Anthropology
 of Menstruation 
edited by Thomas Buckley 

Examining cultures as diverse as long-house dwellers in North Borneo, African farmers, Welsh housewives, and postindustrial American workers, this volume dramatically redefines the anthropological study of menstrual customs. It challenges the widespread image of a universal "menstrual taboo" as well as the common assumption of universal female subordination which underlies it. Contributing important new material and perspectives to our understanding of comparative gender politics and symbolism, it is of particular importance to those interested in anthropology, women's studies, religion, and comparative health systems.





Feast Your Eyes | Book by Myla Goldberg | Official Publisher Page ...Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

The first novel in nearly a decade from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season—a compelling and wholly original story about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood, a balancing act familiar to women of every generation.

Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, tells the life story of Lillian Preston: “America’s Worst Mother, America’s Bravest Mother, America’s Worst Photographer, or America’s Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking.” After discovering photography as a teenager through her high school’s photo club, Lillian rejects her parents’ expectations of college and marriage and moves to New York City in 1955. When a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter Samantha, Lillian is arrested, thrust into the national spotlight, and targeted with an obscenity charge. Mother and daughter’s sudden notoriety changes the course of both of their lives and especially Lillian’s career as she continues a life-long quest for artistic legitimacy and recognition.

Narrated by Samantha, Feast Your Eyes reads as a collection of Samantha’s memories, interviews with Lillian’s friends and lovers, and excerpts from Lillian’s journals and letters—a collage of stories and impressions, together amounting to an astounding portrait of a mother and an artist dedicated, above all, to a vision of beauty, truth, and authenticity.


The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.


Glad to Be Human: Adventures in Optimism (Positive Thinking Book ...Glad to Be Human: Adventures in Optimism by Irene O'Garden

 In  Glad to Be Human: Adventures in Optimism, award-winning writer Irene O'Garden reminds us of the radiance of human existence.  Join O'Garden in her kitchen or her garden to hear her concise and often funny observations.  Travel with her to Paris, Budapest, New York, and Jerusalem to experience the beauty and pain of witness.  Sit beside her in the Alzheimer's unit as she finds a new way of sharing with her sister.  Explore the natural world with her, trekking the deep caverns of Carlsbad, investigating the wide reaches of the Everglades, and gazing out through our starry galaxy itself.  Celebrate our common pleasures, our common sorrows, and our shared humanity.  The book's grand finale is the Pushcart Prize-winning essay, "Glad to Be Human."  Through contemplation, meditation, and with literary style, Glad to Be Human invites readers to view life through a positive lens.  From small daily adventures to journeys overseas and underground, O'Garden has a knack for finding the joy in life and the meaning in the most painful moments, helping us all be Glad to Be Human.

Amazon.com: Dressed for a Dance in the Snow: Women's Voices from ...Dressed for a Dance in the Snow by Monika Zgustova

The pain inflicted by the gulags has cast a long and dark shadow over Soviet-era history. Zgustová's collection of interviews with former female prisoners not only chronicles the hardships of the camps, but also serves as testament to the power of beauty in face of adversity.

Where one would expect to find stories of hopelessness and despair, Zgustová has unearthed tales of the love, art, and friendship that persisted in times of tragedy. Across the Soviet Union, prisoners are said to have composed and memorized thousands of verses. Galya Sanova, born in a Siberian gulag, remembers reading from a hand-stitched copy of Little Red Riding Hood. Irina Emelyanova passed poems to the male prisoner she had grown to love. In this way, the arts lent an air of humanity to the women's brutal realities.

These stories, collected in the vein of Svetlana Alexievich's Nobel Prize-winning oral histories, turn one of the darkest periods of the Soviet era into a song of human perseverance, in a way that reads as an intimate family history.


Why Will No One Play With Me?: Coach your child to overcome social anxiety, peer rejection and bullying - and thriveWhy Will No One Play with Me?: The Play Better Plan to Help Children of All Ages Make Friends and Thrive by Caroline Maguire PCC, M. Ed with Teresa Barker

If you’re worried about your child making friends or being bullied, read this book.

Every child feels like a social outcast at times — we all have, it’s a badge of growing up. But for some children, a host of factors lead to longer periods of exclusion. It’s heartbreaking to watch but now, renowned education, social skills and ADHD expert, Caroline Maguire, offers clear guidance and support so you can help your child turn things around fast – even in just a few weeks.

Bringing together a decade of work with families dealing with chronic social dilemmas, you’ll discover how to use Caroline’s highly effective Play Better Plan to help your child thrive again. Through a series of social strategies and skills including how to target behaviours for change, understanding how children learn and how to choose alternative behaviours, you’ll discover how you can be the best coach for your child and quite literally help them change their life.

This book is for every parent who has ever worried about their child fitting it - because no one wants to ever hear their child ask why will no one play with me?



Advice I Ignored: Stories and Wisdom from a Formerly Depressed ...Advice Ignored: Stories and Wisdom from a Formerly Depressed Teen by Ruby Walker

When Ruby Walker was fifteen, she went from a numb, silent, miserable high school dropout to a joyous loudmouth in one year flat. Advice I Ignored answers the question everyone's been asking her since: What happened? In ten illustrated chapters, you'll learn how to:

  • get out from under self-hatred
  • gain a sense of free will
  • deal with failure without falling apart
  • create your way through an existential crisis
  • use exercise to beg your brain for endorphins
  • have an identity beyond "sad"
  • and more!
Full of embarrassing stories, honest advice, and fierce hope, Advice I Ignored is a self-help book for people who hate help. And themselves.



Amazon.com: You Bring the Distant Near (9780374304904): Perkins ...You Bring the Distant Near 
by Mitali Perkins

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story.

Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity.

Throw Like A Girl | Book by Jean Thompson | Official Publisher ...
Throw Like a Girl by Jean Thompson

A master of short fiction whose "best pieces are as good as it gets in contemporary fiction" (Newsday) returns, as Jean Thompson follows her National Book Award finalist collection Who Do You Love with Throw Like a Girl.

Here are twelve new stories that take dead aim at the secrets of womanhood, arcing from youth to experience. Each one of Thompson's indelible characters -- lovers, wives, friends, and mothers -- speaks her piece -- wry, angry, hopeful -- about the world and women's places in it.


We hope you enjoyed the peek at our prospective summer reading and that, perhaps, you found something you might like to read as well.  Have a fantastic summer!  See you in September!  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

These Is My Words - Nancy E. Turner

It only took 11 years, but I finally got around to reading the novel Melissa McCurdy guest reviewed in glowing fashion for us back in 2009 -- These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901 Arizona Territories.  really wish I hadn't waited so long.

Summary:  Inspired by the author's original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questing, indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s.  As a child, a fiery young woman, and finally a caring mother, Sarah forges a life as full and fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes, and our grandest dreams.

Rich in authentic details of daily life and etched with striking character portraits of very different pioneer families, this action packed novel is also the story of a powerful enduring love between Sarah and the dashing cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. While their love grows, the heartbreak and wonder of the frontier experience unfold in scene after scene.

Sarah's incredible story leads us into a vanished world that comes vividly to life again, while her struggles with work and home, love and responsibility resonate with those every woman faces today.  These is My Words is a passionate celebration of a remarkable life, exhilarating and gripping from first page to last.  (Summary from inside cover - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  When I was young, my mother read the entire Little House series to my sister and I. You may have heard of them. As a result, I became enamored with the whole idea of 'old-fashioned' living; how this young family could pack up all their belongings in a wagon and move from place to place, build a new home each time they did, eke out a living from the land and their own labors, and endure all manner of hardships in the process, was nearly unfathomable to my young mind.  I was hooked and read the same series to my children at the first opportunity.  If you felt the same way about the Little House series as a child, I have no doubt you will fall head over heels for These is My Words as an adult.  It is a richly descriptive and thoroughly riveting story with a grown-up Little House feel.

Although These is My Words is actually a novel, it reads like the real-life diary of seventeen-year-old Sarah Prine as her family travels via wagon on an often-perilous trail as they attempt to settle and make a life for themselves in the Arizona territories.  At first, I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle the character's somewhat uneducated way of writing, but it helped authenticate the story and in a matter of few pages I no longer noticed it.   Like most diaries, the entries offer brief glimpses into Sarah's life on the trail, finding love, building a home, raising a family, and overcoming trials along the way. You'd think that a diary about someone's day-to-day existence might be boring, but it really wasn't.  Not even a little bit.  Her life was hard, but it was also suspenseful, romantic, harrowing, hilarious, and heart-wrenching.

Sarah is an incredibly fun character -- spirited, stubborn, besotted with books, and a crack shot with a pistol. In short, she was everything I would hope to be were I a woman born in the late 1800s. I loved her quick temper, her seemingly rapid mood swings, her growth throughout the book, and the sweet romance that developed between her and another character after a number of frustrating hurdles.  Overall, These is My Words was such an engrossing read.  I felt like a silent spectator sent back in time to observe this one woman and enjoyed every minute of it.  As we head into summer, I recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good book to read.  If they happen to love history, LHOTP, and spunky heroines, so much the better!

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  There are number of of deaths caused by hardship and assorted weaponry, some native american vs. settler violence, minimal swearing in a terminal situation, a rape, attempted rape, and some so-mild-as-to-almost-be-nonexistent sexual situations.  The author is very good at keeping things nondescript.  For example, sex is often referred to as simply "loving" with no additional details. Blink and you miss it. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Clap When You Land - Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review:  I happened to start reading this on the first day of the race riots following George Floyd’s murder, and although I try to read very diverse authors on diverse topics, I was really glad I was reading this at the time I was. It made for a very poignant look at race and the complexities of human relationships in general. I believe that one of the best ways to curb hate and racism and judgment is to read about other people—the issues they face, the complexities of lives other than your own, and the introduction and immersion into other cultures and peoples and times. If you aren’t reading diverse authors and diverse stories, you are sorely missing out on not only educating yourself, but on some excellent stories and interesting people.

I feel like this book has to be judged in two ways: the story and the writing style. First off, I’m going to tackle the writing style. I first read Acevedo’s book With the Fire on High, and you can read my review of that book here. I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed her characters and really enjoyed the female protagonist’s voice. She was sassy and smart and independent. Clap When You Land is written as a novel in verse, which means that although it looks like it’s going to be quite the undertaking to read, in reality it only took a couple of hours. I tore through that thing. I really enjoyed the organizational style during most of the book. The chapter would highlight which of the two female character’s story would be told during that chapter, and then when it would switch the chapter would switch, etc. Once the two girls ended up together, this didn’t happen anymore, however, which made things more confusing. Once I saw a name I could figure it out, but it would always start out first person and there would be a little bit of confusion for awhile. Also, I really missed the depth that comes from Acevedo’s writing in long form. Although I understand there is power in poetry and power in simplicity and brevity, it just wasn’t my jam in this situation. I have to think that were I a YA reader, I would also feel the same way. I wanted more descriptions of the situation. I think the story lent itself well to more depth and discussion, whereas there was a lot to be inferred just by the way that it is written. I know that Acevedo is an award-winning poet, but this just wasn’t my thing. For that reason, I’m giving that part of the book three stars, and I think a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that I really was looking forward to a novel like With the Fire on High, which I enjoyed so much.

Now it’s time to tackle the story. I have really enjoyed the fact that YA books are not afraid to discuss hard things these days. A father who has two different families in different countries is a tough pill to swallow for those families, and would be even more confusing and difficult since the girls were young enough that there were a lot of loose ends in their lives. The settings of place were excellent, although the Dominican Republic was given a lot more time and description than New York. I have been to the DR and I loved reading about the ocean and the vibrant colors and food, etc. Also, I’m pretty sure that when our flight landed in the DR, people clapped, which was fun to read about in this book.

I think it’s easy to paint a father with two families in a negative light. Although Acevedo wasn’t afraid to shy away from the obvious complexities in the relationships, let alone the struggles that two half sisters who have never met would experience when they found out about each other because of a tragic situation, I appreciated that she also addressed the nuanced and difficult situation that he was a good, loving father, whom a lot of people loved. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a good man trying to be a good dad and friend, family member, etc, to those around him. I think that this lent itself to a lot of thought on my part about what makes a person a good person or a bad person. It’s so easy to categorize someone one way or the other, and a man with two families might fit snugly in the category of one who can’t be trusted and one who takes advantage of people. However, people are more complex than that and judging right away without learning more about the situation or the person is a detriment to both of you. Because of this, I’m giving the story element of this book five stars.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language in this book, and there are some scary situations of stalking that, although they don’t come to fruition, are still creepy.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Freeform Friday: The Assassin's Curse Series (Including The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish) - Cassandra Rose Clarke

This Freeform Friday, I have a duology review.  
Let's start with our review of the first book in the series -- 
The Assassin's Curse.  
Our thoughts on the second book, The Pirate's Wish, are posted just below.  

Summary:  Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan.  But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her.  When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.  

To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks -- all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic...and the growing romantic tension between them.  (Summary from back of book - Image from goodreads.com)

*NOTE*  Some of the second paragraph of the above summary doesn't actually happen in this book.  Not really.  Presumably, it happens in the second one.  I find it completely bizarre that they even have what amounts to spoilers on the back of the first book, but whatevs. Too late now.

My Review:  I picked up this book because I loved the cover art (so sue me!).  I was also enticed by the story and a Tamora Pierce recommendation, calling it 'unique, heart-wrenching, full of mysteries and twists!"  I hadn't heard of it the series before but figured, what the heck,  I'm in full-on quarantine right now (translation: mid-April 2020).  I'm not going anywhere in real life.  Might as well go on an adventure!

The Assassin's Curse is a fine adventure with plenty of action, a strong-willed heroine, and a host of interesting characters.  I blazed through it one lazy weekend with time to spare and it took very little effort on my part.  I enjoyed the premise -- hard-edged pirate girl meets mysterious assassin, both of whom get tangled up in a curse that will take them on a perilous journey --  but something about it just felt off.  Although the book is marketed towards an young adult audience, the writing itself felt more 'middle-grade,' stripped down, and lacking the complexity I would expect from a book written for older teens. 

The main character, Ananna, is a seventeen-year-old female pirate, raised on the sea surrounded by a bunch of other pirates and, as such, in possession of her own piratical parlance.  The author's approach to the main character's way of speaking seemed to be the zealous application of the word of  ain't and the occasional double negative or profanity.  It just didn't work for me. The ain'ts were annoying, but I could handle them.  The double negatives were arguably appropriate to convey a lack of formal education.  However, the author chose to use modern profanity, which not only felt jarring in a novel that seemed written for tweens (no matter how pirate-laden) but not even remotely right for the setting.

While I thoroughly enjoyed how Ananna and Naji came to become traveling companions, and much of their interaction, I didn't feel any of the hinted-at romantic chemistry between them.  There were definitely some one-sided feelings happening, but nothing reciprocal and, quite frankly, that's just no fun.  Ultimately, I wanted more from this book than it gave me.  More complexity, richness, and depth.  More nuanced characters, chemistry, and real honest-to-goodness romantic tension.  I wanted the story to come alive and it just, well...didn't.  

All. That. Having. Been. Said. 

This book ends without any real closure and I have the sequel, The Pirate's Wish sitting right here next to me.  It's staring at me, and its summary is tempting, and I can't help but wonder if things won't get better in book two.  I mean, it could happen, right?  RIGHT?  

*GAH*  What the heck.  It's quarantine.  I'll let you know.  (You guys are so spoiled.  You don't even have to wait.  See below)

My Rating:  3.25 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Around twenty (give or take) instances of profanity.  Some mild violence.  

________________________________________________________________

The Pirate's Wish is the second book in The Assassin's Curse duology.

Summary:  After setting out to break the curse that binds them, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island with nothing but a sword and their wits.  But Naji has unseen enemies, and Ananna must face the wrath of the Pirate Confederation.

Together, they must travel afar, defeat their foes and break the other of all curses.  With all this going on, falling in love would be such a bad idea... All of this and much, much more await in the swashbuckling sequel to The Assassin's Curse. (Summary from back of book - Image from goodreads.com)

My Review:  In The Pirate's Wish, Ananna and Naji embark on a journey to complete three impossible tasks and break the curse that binds them together.  Over the course of the book, they venture to unexpected places, pick up a few new traveling companions, and come to depend on each other more than ever.

Occasionally -- very very occasionally -- the second book in a series will make me like the first book a little bit more.  Such is the case with The Pirate's Wish.  The sequel still had much in common with its predecessor, both good and bad, but I definitely gained a greater appreciation for the first by reading the second.  There was still modern profanity and the liberal use of the word ain't, but the writing was significantly improved, I was more drawn into the plot, and there was a marked increase in chemistry and romantic tension between the two main characters.

The Pirate's Wish touches on some more adult themes which contributed to the book feeling a bit older than The Assassin's Curse.  I didn't love everything that brought to the story, but nothing was particularly graphic or drawn out.  It's hard to be critical of the magical elements of any story, seeing as magic has no real rules or boundaries; the author basically has carte blanche to do whatever they want.  However, there was one particular aspect of the story that tested my commitment to 'believe' the world the author created.  It wasn't the manticore either.  Sharks, I'm looking at you. Thankfully, that part was short lived and I felt this book ended on a good note.

Taken on its own, I don't think The Assassin's Curse is much to write home about but, combined with The Pirate's Wish and viewed as part of a larger story, I did come to appreciate the arc of it all and author's creative combination of old world adventure, mythology, elemental magic, and the mundane.  I actually think it would be much better if the two books were combined into one and ohmygosh would you look at that -------------------------------------------------> 

Magic of Blood and Sea is a combined edition of the two books.  I can't speak to whether it is an exact duplicate of the two books I just read, but I'm betting it's pretty darn close.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Swearing (about 20ish incidents of the H, A, S, F, D, and B variety). Mild violence.  Discussion of sexual matters.  Non-graphic sex between two characters.  Non-graphic kissing between two same gender characters.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Girl the Sea Gave Back - Adrienne Young (Sky in the Deep #2)

Summary: The story of an entwined destiny between a girl burdened with mystical foresight and a warrior untested in battle.

Tova was a child when she was discovered washed ashore in a half-burned boat by the Svell clan.  The sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her not only as a member of  the Kyrr, but as a Truthtongue.  The Svell believe her cursed, forsaken by her own people.  But Tova's ability to cast the rune stones and interpret the web of fate woven by the Spinners makes her valuable.  Until the day she foresees the Svell destruction, compelling them to wage war.

Across the valley, the rival Aska and Riki clans have lived peacefully for more than ten years as a new people have lived peacefully for more than ten years as a new people -- the Nādhir. But when Svell raiders attack and a village's inhabitants are slaughtered, Halvard believes there might be a way to avoid war.  Chosen to be the Nādhir.'s next chieftain, he convinces his elders to negotiate with the Svell before more blood is spilled.  His hope for a truce is shattered when the Nādhir. are deceived by their enemy and ambushed without mercy.

But there is more to Tova's prophecy than bloodshed.  As long as Halvard  lives, his people have a future.  And if what Tova sees in the runes is true, her own path is interwoven with his.  Now, she must find the courage to free herself from the only family she's every known in order to fulfill her own fate.  (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a sequel to an audiobook that I reviewed back in 2018.  The first book, Sky in the Deep, can be read as a stand alone novel, but those wanting a continuation of their Eelyn and Fiske's story in the sequel, might be a little disappointed to find them relegated to the role of secondary characters.  The story felt more like a spin-off than a sequel, with the plot centered on different characters and set ten years after the events of Sky in the Deep.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back focuses on a young seer named Tova, thought dead by her own people and found by the aggressive Svell clan, and a warrior named Halvard, brother to Sky in the Deep's Fiske, and chieftain-in-training for the newly formed Nādhir people.  The story alternates between Tova and Halvard's perspectives on different sides of the dispute, but often overlap so that I was able to see the 'scene' from both sides of the fight.  I enjoyed this book's basic plot but, for much of the story, I felt a little lost.  That could be entirely my fault.  It's been nearly two years since I read the first book and although the Nordic setting was seamless and easy to conjure, I kept having to stop and look up some of the secondary characters to refresh my memory.  I tell you, the old memory banks ain't what they used to be.  The story jumped around in time a bit, to better  illuminate the characters' backstory, but it all felt a bit Time Traveler's Wife to me as I was trying to order things chronologically in my head. 

As with the Sky in the Deep, I loved the Nordic/Scandinavian setting, the assorted warring clans, and their differing belief systems of The Girl the Sea Gave Back. It really helped 'set the stage,' if you will.  I just wish the book had been a bit longer to allow for more interaction between the two main characters.  While Halvard and Tova catch glimpses of each other in visions and across battlefields, they have limited face-to-face interaction for much of the story.  They do meet, eventually, but I didn't feel like there was enough time for them to develop any real chemistry before the book was just...over.  I wish there had been a few more in-person interactions to give time for things to develop organically and to really draw out any romantic tension.

Overall, I enjoyed the idea of The Girl the Sea Gave Back but not quite as well as its predecessor.  To get the most out of the second book, I recommend reading it soon after the first or at the very least finding yourself a decent summary to refresh your memory.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Some violence of the Viking variety.  A kiss, but no sex or major makingout. No language that I can recall.  Several Norse-ish belief systems.

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