The Adventures of Superhero Girl, by Faith Erin Hicks

March 25, 2017 by

[Lesley] Awesome take on the superhero genre from the perspective of an ordinary person who just happens to have superpowers and who wants to fight crime. Loved the sense of humor and the sense of sincerity in this and definitely want to read more by Faith Erin Hicks! Passed it on to my husband and he loved it too. Thanks for the recommendation Lucia!

Scar Island, by Dan Gemeinhart

March 23, 2017 by

[Lucia] Dan Gemeinhart’s third novel continues his streak of gripping middle-grade adventures.

Jonathan Grisby is the newest “student” at Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys. The crumbling fortress is located on a remote island, pounded by surf and weather, and cut off from every comfort. The boys spend nights locked in dark cells exposed to the icy wind, and survive on mere scraps of food. The staff is cruel and abusive, and it’s exactly what Jonathan deserves. You see, Jonathan is not innocent. He has a terrible secret, a past that earned him his spot at Slabhenge, and he’s ready to take whatever punishment comes his way to try and atone. But, just as Jonathan is learning the ways of his new life, a disaster leaves the boys alone on the island without any adults. When their newfound freedom turns to anarchy and a new wave of cruelty, Jonathan must come to terms with his past, or leave every boy on the island to a watery doom.

Gemeinhart’s first two books, “The Honest Truth,” and “Some Kind of Courage,” were both on the Great Stone Face Award list, and I expect “Scar Island” to make it a hat trick. This book is recommended for anyone who enjoys adventure, disasters, self-discovery, and solid, fast-paced writing.

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The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton

March 2, 2017 by

[Lesley] Catton somehow manages to take a large cast of characters (alive and dead), a wild and untested place and time, and a very tangled plot and create a fabulously crafted story. Mystery piles on top of mystery amidst lies, betrayals, innocent mistakes, and plans-gone-awry and it all unfolds with lush descriptions and intimate details. I especially loved how painstakingly the story is revealed in the first 3/4 of the book only to careen almost off the rails to the ultimate explanation in the end. Masterfully written. I can’t say I ever really came to understand the structure of the constellations/zodiac but it didn’t distract from everything else that is wonderful about this book.

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

December 7, 2016 by

[Tricia] This is a beautifully written, powerful and deeply compelling novel telling the  story of two sisters in Ghana in the 18th century, one who marries a British officer and stays in Ghana, the other is sold into slavery in America. The book tells the story of the descendants of each sister, all the way up to the present. The sense of place in this book is so strong, and I feel like it’s going to stay with me for a long time. Highly recommend.

Life Among Giants, by Bill Roorbach

November 21, 2016 by

[Lesley] Bill Roorbach has written a novel that is both similar to some of John Irving’s best (think A Prayer for Owen Meany or World According to Garp) and very much its own story. Narrated by the adult “Lizard” (David), the story spans from the 70’s to today and encompasses football, corruption, rock music, fame, mental illness, murder, world-class ballet, sex, family, and food. Lizard and his sister Kate grow up in a family of secrets and across a pond from a famous rock star, his equally famous ballerina wife, and his disabled son. Moving forward and backward in time, David relates the intertwined stories of his parents, his sister, the famous neighbors, the crimes suspected and confirmed (like the murder of his parents for one), and his own life as a pro football player turned restaurateur/chef. “Tangled” doesn’t even begin to describe the plot but we are deftly brought along, mainly learning things in the order that David did and getting all of the stories from his perspective. And, in the end, we only know as much as he does — which isn’t the whole truth by any means. This book is well-written and the characters are wonderfully introduced and developed. Not a murder-mystery since we always know who killed David’s parents, but there are many mysteries surrounding the motivations of many characters and maybe some even greater mysteries about why people behave the way they do.

I downloaded this audiobook through the library’s Hoopla subscription with my library card.

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

November 4, 2016 by

[Lesley]  Colson Whitehead is a crazy good writer. He writes stories so realistically, so seemingly true to life (past or present), but with the slightest surprising twists that change everything. This book tells the story of a slave girl/woman named Cora left behind as a child when her mother fled the plantation and who later becomes a fugitive herself, traveling via the Underground Railroad. This isn’t the exact Underground Railroad in our history books, however, and the places and communities she spends time in aren’t exactly what you would expect either. Telling the story slant doesn’t alter the “truth” of the fugitive slave experience – instead it intensifies it somehow.   Also recommended: Zone One by Colson Whitehead

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The Nix, by Nathan Hill

October 30, 2016 by

[Lesley]  One of the best books I have read in a long time. I loved how smart, funny, and insightful this book is as well as its willingness to be bold. The novel covers a lot of ground – Samuel Andreson Anderson’s childhood, his mother’s story, the Vietnam War and domestic protests, online gaming addiction, child abuse, estrangement, police corruption, and Norwegian mythology – but the story is small at its heart (the one story – wanting to be loved, wanting to belong), a story of a mother and son, but in telling it, the scope of this book is large — Is there any way to be “true” to yourself without being alone? what is the aftermath of abandonment, abuse, obsession? if we commit wrong acts in a world that is inherently wrong, who is at fault? Is anything true or is everything just one person’s perspective, or story, or a story told about them? Nathan Hill does a masterful job leading us through the story, back and forth in time and place, and always wryly shining a light on imperfection.

Escape Clause by John Sandford

October 20, 2016 by

[Cindy]

This novel has everything you could want in a Virgil Flowers book. A plot with a couple of twists, lots of local Minnesota touches, humor, and great dialogue from some of my favorite characters. There’s even a little cameo from Lucas Davenport (yea!). This is the 9th book in the V. Flowers series and it hits all the high points.  Every time I read one of John Sandfords novels – I feel like I’m meeting up with a bunch of old friends and can’t wait to find out what they’re up to now!

 

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

October 12, 2016 by

[Cindy]

This book starts as a simple story about twenty-something girl running from a tragic past and landing a job at a premier cooking magazine. But it quickly transforms into a mystery and character study with an incredible cast of quirky folks.  The history with WWII as the background was fascinating. The discussions about food rationing, and the subsequent recipes, was very interesting.  The letters exchanged between James Beard and a young girl were such a great part of the story. The story was unpredictable with its many fun twists and turns, and was a great read. (I actually listened to the audio of this and the narrator was great.)  I didn’t want this story to end.  Make sure you have some snacks ready as you read this – the food descriptions are amazing!

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

October 5, 2016 by

[Tricia]

Lab Girl is a fascinating memoir by scientist (paleobiologist) Hope Jahren. It is beautifully written, and gives a vivid glimpse of what it is like to be a woman running an academic science lab. You feel her frustration at the constant struggle to obtain funding, the joys of her scientific discoveries, and her complicated and fascinating friendship with her friend and lab partner. She also offers a vivid picture of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder, and how she navigates her work and motherhood and marriage. I particular love the way she interweaves the stories of the trees she studies into the story of her life. Highly recommend.