Monday, December 28, 2015

The Doll Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow

The Doll Collection is a set of 17 new tales of dolls from 17 different writers. The editor made one condition: no evil doll stories. The stories do plumb the depths of the "uncanny valley" of human comfort level with dolls.

I did not enjoy The Doll Collection as much as Haunted Dolls (edited by Seon Manley), but as a doll collector it was definitely still worth reading.

As usual with story collections, there are two star stories and five star stories. I thought the strongest story overall was "Homemade Monsters," about a boy who turns a Captain Kirk doll into Godzilla and what happens after a neighborhood bully intentionally breaks it. As a doll collector, I thought Seanan McGuire's "There Is No Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold" was the best story. In it, a doll maker explains the true purpose behind her craft, and the creepy boyfriend who makes fun of her work gets what is coming to him. You can tell reading this story that the author collects dolls herself.

(The author note says, "Seanan McGuire is an avid doll collector, and she shares her room with several hundred blank, soulless eyes. In addition to her doll problem, she has a small writing problem, and she publishes and average of four books a year".)

There are some truly disturbing stories in this collection, and some that just didn't work for me. Some didn't really have much to do with dolls. Still, I recommend this collection for anyone who enjoys short stories and has an interest in the creepy/cute paradox of dolls.

The Galesburg Public Library has both The Haunted Dolls and The Doll Collection in the adult FICTION area.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Publisher description: "When Gabriel Ash's wife and kids were kidnapped four years ago by Somali pirates, his life spiraled out of control. He left his job working for the British government and moved to a small town where he descended into near madness. But with the help of his dog, Patience, and his friendship with young police officer Hazel Best, his focus returned. So when he discovers that his wife is still alive, Ash is once again filled with hope and fear. Hope that he has another chance to find her and their two young sons; fear that, in trying, he may bring about their deaths."

One thing I like about Jo Bannister is that she excels at drawing emotional relationships between members of the opposite sex who are not romantic pairs. This is brilliantly displayed in Desperate Measures, the third book in the Gabriel Ash/Hazel Best series.

Desperate Measures is full of plot twists, okay, not all entirely plausible, but the story kept me guessing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At one point I actually had to skip ahead because something happened that I both believed and could not believe.

I love the character of Gabriel Ash, the depiction of his struggle to cope with his PTSD, and his ability to hear his white lurcher Patience speak. (Patience is a great character too.) I also like that Gabriel is clever and intelligent but not a James Bond type. ("He had never been licensed to kill. He'd never been licensed to shout loudly or carry a pointed stick. He was a desk jockey - always had been, always would have been until he took his pension and the CBE that went with it. ... He was the kind of man who apologized to people who bumped into him in shop doorways." (p. 216))

If you like English police procedurals with lots of character development, I recommend all of Jo Bannister's series. If you also  are drawn to depictions of characters with PTSD, so much the better as far as the Gabriel Ash/Hazel Best series goes. Can't wait for the next book in the series!

The Galesburg Public Library has many books by Jo Bannister in multiple formats. The first book in the Gabriel Ash/Hazel Best series is Deadly Virtues.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Posted for reader Holly:

I recently had the pleasure of grabbing the book My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.  This book is about a woman whose mother comes to visit her while in the hospital after 8 years of estrangement from one another.  The pages have seemingly few words for the intense amount of emotion and meaning that is captured within them.  Even though the main character is specifically from a troubled family, this book will reach anyone who knows the power and connection between a mother and child.  I was simply amazed by what I felt from this book, as if the emotions were hovering  in the air... as if I were sitting in the hospital room feeling the healing of the character both physical and emotional. Highly recommended. 

 - Holly  

My Name is Lucy Barton will be published in January and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Edge by Roland Smith

Genres: Adventure, Thriller, Middle Grade
Series: Peak #2
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Checked out from GPL

Add on Goodreads
The International Peace Ascent is the brainchild of billionaire Sebastian Plank: Recruit a global team of young climbers and film an inspiring, world-uniting documentary. The adventure begins when fifteen-year-old Peak Marcello and his mountaineer mother are helicoptered to a remote base camp in the Hindu Kush Mountains on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. When the camp is attacked and his mother taken, Peak has no choice but to track down the perpetrators to try to save her.

It’s been so long since I read Peak but I remember it fondly. Unfortunately, this sequel did NOT live up to my memory of Peak. I love a fast-paced adventure but this one didn’t do much for me. It was quick and easy to read but that's pretty much it.
For starters, I think this book needed more development. Everything happened too fast and the tension was never the right amount. As a result, I wasn’t as invested in what was happening. I also found the entire situation unbelievable. A lot of things didn’t add up and there were way too many loopholes. For example, the climber from Australia is some guy who cannot even climb but the entire event is supposed to be full of professional young adult climbers. Could they not find a single kid who knew how to climb in Australia? I am just like woah.
Peak, for the most part was an okay kid, but he said some obnoxious things that made me wonder whether or not he lived under a rock (yes I am trying to be punny.) I guess when you’re a child prodigy, anything is a possible…
Maybe pass this one if you, like me, haven’t read Peak in years. Or if you haven’t read either, Peak might be something cool to try! Mountain climbing for the win!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Genres: Graphic Novels, Young Adult
Release Date: September 5th, 2006
Publisher: First Second
Source: Checked out from GPL

Add on Goodreads
All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he's the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl...

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn't want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god...

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he's ruining his cousin Danny's life. Danny's a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse...
I was in 8th grade when I first read American Born Chinese. I loved it but re-reading this book took my love to a whole new level.  So what prompted this re-read you ask? Well, I was reading The Arrival, another great graphic novel, for one of my classes and then suddenly, I remembered ABC. I remembered the yellowness of the cover and I remembered the way the author weaved together 3 completely different stories in such a surprising way and then I wanted to re-read the book. I wanted to experience it from a more ‘grown up’ perspective.

I kind of want to make re-reading the book an annual thing for myself now because I have so much love for it. American Born Chinese deals with cultural identity, bullying, stereotypes and learning to love who YOU are.

Jin Wang moves from China Town, San Francisco to a school where he is the only Chinese-American kid in his class. The teacher basically gets his entire life story wrong on the first day and makes it evident to him how much he sticks out. As the years go by, he seems to become more and more self-conscious of all the stereotypes surrounding his culture and how that affects the way people view him. 

His story runs parallel to the Monkey King's and the two stories interact in such interesting ways! Of course everything about this book is interesting to me but we won’t go down that rabbit hole.

So do I recommend this book? HECK YEAH I DO! Also if you’re a fan of Fresh off the Boat, this book would be a great read.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Source: ARC received for review from GPL

Add on Goodreads
In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.

Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed. 

Reasons why I read the book: Title + cover + setting + time period.

Reasons why I loved the book: Feels + characters + great relationships + diversity

The Smell of Other People’s Houses is actually not about some weird person that goes around sniffing other people's houses. It is a profound book about families, relationships and the interconnectedness of a community.

I don’t usually like multiple point of views and while I think some of the transitions between them could have been neater, I actually liked all of the characters and enjoyed being inside their minds. The characters don’t have much in common besides the community they are part of/will become a part of and don’t even really hang out with each other, but the way their stories interwine is amazing.

This may seem like a feel-good book but it really isn’t. It’s heartbreaking. 3 out of 4 of the main characters come from heartbreaking backgrounds and their journey to finding a place within this community isn’t easy.

Ruth has to deal with teen pregnancy and this constant feeling of not being loved. Dora is trying to escape from her awful home and although she has found a new, loving family, she cannot embrace them because she still thinks it’s too good to be true. Hank runs away from home with his brothers to give them a new beginning, but he loses one of his brothers. Alyce on the other hand is just trying to find a place in her own family. Her parents got divorced and summer is the only time she gets to see her father so she is torn between wanting to stay with him and following her dreams.

Things do wrap up a little too easily at the end of the book but it did not keep me from enjoying the nice warmness this book brings about when these characters find their place and begin to understand the world in a way they hadn’t before.

I would recommend this book to everyone that wants to cuddle up with a book on a cold winter night that will warm them up as much as any cup of hot cocoa. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I very much enjoyed Station Eleven and had no trouble following the many character threads across the years as the timeline moved back and forth.

The situation  - a pandemic that kills 99% of the world’s population in a few days - feels so very possible, and that certainly increased my interest in the plot. What might happen after such a pandemic also felt plausible. And I am wholeheartedly in support of the Traveling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians trying to keep the arts alive “Because survival is insufficient.” (I’m also happy to see a Star Trek Voyager reference in a book, as Voyager is my favorite Star Trek spin-off.)

Most of the main characters were well drawn. One thread (Jeevan’s) felt somewhat pointless, but I suppose was necessary to convey what it was like immediately after the catastrophe.

I did feel the ending fell a little flat. I expected a few more connections and explanations than were made.  Still, I definitely recommend Station Eleven to readers of dystopia and science fiction.

The Galesburg Public Library has Station Eleven in regular print and large print, as an audiobook, and as an ebook.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

From the publisher: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity's only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild. Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing ― kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery―one that will change Rithmatics―and their world―forever.

This month, the GPL Chapter Chompers Teen Lit Book Club read The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson. Overall, book club members really enjoyed the book. While a magical world centered around evil chalk drawings seemed kind of comical at first, we quickly found ourselves buying into the premise, wondering whether or not any of us would be capable of drawing the perfect circles required for protection against Wild Chalklings. We liked the character of Joel (one group member called him "pleasantly nerdy"), were conflicted about Melody (one group member LOVED her, while another felt like she was maybe hiding something), and loved to hate Professor Nalizar. We all appreciated the twists and turns of the book's ending -- Who's good? Who's bad? And why do we have to wait until 2017 to find out, Brandon Sanderson???

Almost all of our group members shipped Melody and Joel (welcome to the world, Jelody), and we spent some time envisioning the sequel of our dreams, wherein Melody and Joel get married, Professor Fitch tragically dies, and then Jelody produces a baby they name Baby Fitch, regardless of gender. What? It could happen.

The Chapter Chompers 5-point book rating system is as follows:
1 (lowest ranking) = 1 pizza
2 = 2 pizzas
3 = 3 pizzas
4 = breadsticks
5 = legit unitado

I am pleased to announced that The Rithmatist received the coveted Legit Unitado rating from our group of distinguished teen readers. It is available now in libraries and bookstores.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Apples of Uncommon Character

Apples of Uncommon Character is a truly delightful look at 123 varieties of apples, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their uses.

This is a not boring recitation of information about apples. The author injects some humor and interest into all the descriptions. He also includes history and fun facts. For example, did you know that the character of Rambo by David Morrell was named after the Summer Rambo apple? That the apple that led Isaac Newton to ponder gravity was a Flower of Kent?

Other fun comments about various varieties:

Of the Blue Pearmain: "This is the apple Elrond would have tended in his backyard in Rivendell, and it would have been off-limits to any dwarf or hobbit."

Of the Knobbed Russet (a very ugly apple): "Uses: Terrify your children."

Of the Dabinett: "Use: Don't eat fresh, unless sucking on tea bags is your idea of fun."

Of the Red Delicious: "Texture: Both good and bad examples have that horrible leathery skin that likes to slide between your teeth and lacerate your gums....Use: Makes a great logo."

Definitely recommended for foodies and lovers of apples.

The book can be found at the Galesburg Public Library at NFIC 634.11 JAC.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

Death Comes to Kurland Hall is the third book in a Regency romance-mystery series. I very much enjoyed the first two books. The third is not quite as good but still kept my attention. 

The tame Austen-like romance is more front and center than the mystery, and the language and behavior are probably too modern for a purist. For example, Lucy Harrington, the rector's daughter, thinks mildly about the fact that her father is sleeping with his cook, and the servants are insolent and familiar. The modern language and behavior can be jarring.

Lucy and Major Kurland have a Beatrice and Benedick-like relationship, which is sometimes taken to extreme lengths. While an extremely unlikeable woman lays dead at the bottom of the stairs at Kurland Hall, Major Kurland and Miss Harrington bicker over the body before calling for help.

The dialog is sometimes quite repetitive, and a red herring regarding the identity of the murder was too red. It was easy for me to see the person was not the murderer. I guessed the identity of the murderer early and found the person's motivation and behavior not in character with the person as presented and developed by the author.

The romance is sweet and satisfying for lovers of proper romance, but the resolution of the mystery was not believable. Still, I will read the next book in the series and hope it returns to the level of the first two.

I recommend Death Comes to Kurland Hall for those interested in the continuing relationship between Major Kurland and Lucy Harrington. The first book in the series is Death Comes to the Village. The first two books are available at the Galesburg Public Library, and the third will be when it is published in late November.

I read an advance reader copy of Death Comes to Kurland Hall.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genres: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Release Date: October 22nd, 1999
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Source: Checked out book from GPL

Add on Goodreads

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.
When Speak came out over a decade ago, it was ground breaking because of the way it dealt with teen sexuality. 16 years later, it is still relevant and continues to change lives because it isn’t afraid to tell the story of a teenager who had real problems and real reactions to them.

Melinda doesn’t have a whole cast of friends to rely on. She doesn’t have parents to rely on. When she called the police at the party at the end of the summer, she lost her friends and she is stuck all by herself not knowing how to deal with what happened.

In that way, Melinda’s character is heartbreakingly realistic. But, Melinda also has a certain wit that makes her more than just a character to which a ‘bad thing’ happened. It makes Melinda a character worth knowing and someone you want to cheer for.

This book also deals with rape in a way that I think is realistic. It doesn’t dramatize it (this may be the wrong word to use but I don't know how to better express myself) but rather approaches it in a way that shows the reality of it. There are some things that were a little iffy but I am not going to go into detail because SPOILERS.

This book wasn’t perfect, though. I did think there were things that happened towards the end that were perhaps too easy but at the same time, worked. I also wished that we weren’t cut off from one scene towards the end of the book because it was the most important in my opinion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am so glad I finally read it after having it on my to-be-read list for ages.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof by Annie M.G. Schmidt

From the publisher: An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He has noticed that Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and ease. . . . It's almost as if she's a cat herself. But how can that be?

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof is a charming tale by award-winning Dutch author Annie M.G. Schmidt, now translated into English and scheduled to be published in January 2016.

Miss Minou is in fact a cat, turned into a human after eating rubbish outside a research institute. She sleeps in a box and can still understand Cattish, which is how she is able to provide Mr. Tibble with all those news scoops. There are cats everywhere, and they see and hear everything.

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof is wise in the ways of cats and full of felines with big personalities.  The humor is sly and subtle: 
When Minou came home with some news story or other and told Tibble how she’d got it, he cried, "It’s all so organized! One cat passes it on to the next. … It’s a kind of cat press agency."
"I’m not sure I like the sound of that,’ Minou said hesitantly. ‘A cat press … it makes me think of a garlic press. Squished cat."
"Not a cat-press agency," Tibble said, "a cat press agency.’
(p. 28 of the advance reader copy)

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof would make a fabulous chapter book to read with any young cat lover. The artwork is adorable, with different drawings of cute cats starting off each chapter.

I read an advance reader copy of The Cat Who in off the Roof.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson

There’s a new genre of fiction that is becoming ever more popular – climate fiction, or cli fi. Plots are focused on the environment and especially our planet’s climate. Climate fiction is benefitting from the fact that dystopian and apocalyptic novels are super hot right now – or maybe climate fiction is helping drive that popularity.

The Galesburg Public Library’s Food for Thought book discussion group found the water shortage dystopian novel Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis to not be scientific enough in explaining how we as a society could reach such a crisis. Then we discussed Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain, and we found it to be a little too scientific. We all at times felt a little overwhelmed by the facts, background information, and explanations of primate behavior and how the scientific proposal and grant process works.

Still, those who finished the book were glad they had done so, and we all agreed it could make a great movie.

Most of the book is set up – the flooding crisis in Washington DC does not take place until the last 100 pages. But there are two more books in the series so Robinson could take his time introducing his characters. Scientists, politicians, biomathematicians at a start-up, and refugees from a low-lying island nation all meet and interact as we are fed the circumstances driving the planet toward an environmental crisis.

It’s refreshing to have a male author writing about a lactating working mother whose husband works from home and assumes most of the childcare. Their toddler is a real character in the book, not just a plot device.

The politics in the book (published in 2004) seem all too real. The animals in the Washington zoo are released to fend for themselves as the city floods, something that recently happened in the country of Georgia. I often wonder how so many Americans can vote against their own interests, and one of Robinson’s characters agrees:  “You work every day of the year, except for three lousy weeks. You make around a hundred thousand dollars. Your boss takes two thirds, and gives you one third, and you give a third of that to the government. Your government uses what it takes to build all the roads and schools and police and pensions, and your boss takes his share and buys a mansion on an island somewhere. So naturally you complain about your bloated inefficient Big Brother of a government, and you always vote for the pro-owner party….How stupid is that?” (p. 74)

Quite a few times as I read Forty Signs of Rain I found myself thinking “Yes, that’s so true!” Another example:

“The battle for control of science went on. Many administrations and Congresses hadn’t wanted technology or the environment assessed at all, as far as Anna could see. It might get in the way of business. They didn’t want to know. …And yet they did want to call the shots. …On what basis did they build such an incoherent mix of desires, to want to stay ignorant and to be powerful as well? Were these two parts of the same insanity?” (p. 114-115)     
If you agree that climate change is a real planetary issue that needs to be addressed and don’t mind a fair amount of facts and figures, you might enjoy Forty Signs of Rain. If you think climate change is a load of bunk or just don’t think we can afford to do anything about it, the book would probably just make you mad.

The Galesburg Public Library owns all three books in Robinson’s Science in the Capitol series.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

From the publisher: In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and—eventually—one another to stay alive. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens—the Leningrad Symphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory. This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives.

I had this book sitting on my dining room table for months while I tried to convince myself to read it. First of all, it is WWII nonfiction. Not My Thing. And second, it generated a huge amount of hype among advance reviewers. I am always wary of the overhyped, especially within YA literature where every book is the "next big thing." But finally I gave in, and I am so glad I did. Symphony for the City of the Dead more than lives up to the hype.

M.T. Anderson has achieved what I found to be a perfect blend of history, narrative, and springboard for questioning. The prose is suitable for older teens - accessible but not "dumbed down" in the slightest. Photos and maps are integrated throughout (helpful for readers who, like me, are geographically impaired). And so many layers! The role of music and art during wartime, the lengths to which people will go to survive atrocities... I will never forget the depiction of the Leningrad orchestra, starving and weak and almost dead, straggling in to play the seventh symphony to an audience of people who sacrificed their bread rations to buy a ticket.

Symphony for the City of the Dead is available for loan at Galesburg Public Library.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

From the publisher: In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Has everyone else out there already heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff? Because I most certainly had not, before reading this book.  I'm talking never - not a thing.  And to find out that it represents the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history... from a YA novel? Amazing.

Salt to the Sea works on a variety of levels. First, just as a narrative, it's gripping in all the right ways for a teen reader: the story is told from multiple points of view (each of which is easily identifiable), has lots of drama, moves along at a very quick pace, and has a sense of closure at the end. Second, the book works as a straight-up history lesson. And finally it serves as a lesson in the importance of history, of how if we don't pass along stories of atrocities people are doomed to repeat them.

Historical fiction has always been a poison in my reading life, and Ruta Sepetys appears to be the antidote. I have loved everything she's written and always look forward to seeing what she does next. I read an advanced reading copy of Salt to the Sea; it comes out in stores on February 2nd, 2016.

Slade House by David Mitchell

"Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door. Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late. . . . ."

That's the premise behind the newest offering from bestselling author David Mitchell. This fall, nine public libraries in Central Illinois partnered to celebrate reading through a program called Central Illinois Reads. Penguin Random House generously donated 100 advance reader copies of Slade House for us to distribute, and discussions will be taking place over the next month.

I've never read Mitchell's Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks, but I don't think that affected my reading of Slade House too much. While Slade House does not bristle with originality, I was pulled in to the story after a slow start, and it is a very quick read. The language is rich and playful, and I was even surprised by some English phrases I didn't recognize. If you are looking for a short, spooky, seasonal novella to creep you out this October, look no further than Slade House. It's like a sweet but insubstantial Halloween treat.

Bonus points for mention of the abbey on the Hebridean Isle of Iona (which I have visited and is suitably spooky) are slightly reduced by an eye-rolling mention of Hotel California (which I've been singing on and off since I first read the description of Slade House).

Thank you to Penguin Random House and for advance reader copies of Slade House.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Genres: Superpowers, Graphic Novels, Young Adult
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Checked out book from GPL

Add on Goodreads

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I only really started hearing about Nimona a couple months before its release. I didn’t even know about the webcomics so when I dove into Nimona, all I knew was that it was a very hyped book and had even been nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. That is HIGH praise but I was more curious than scared. And really, I had no need to be scared because Nimona was just as amazing as everyone said it was.

Nimona is the new sidekick for an infamous supervillain Ballister Blackheart, and she decides she wants to take it upon herself to come up with evil schemes to destroy the world. Unfortunately, her ideas tend to mess with Ballister Blackheart’s plans.

There is more to both the characters than you would think and this short graphic novel turns into so much more. It is so heartwarming and makes you want to curl up in a ball and munch on brownies. (why brownies you ask? Because this mini-review is brought to you by brownies)

I love that even though this is a graphic novel, Stevenson manages to develop a very thorough plot arc and develops relationships so beautifully.

The only thing that bothered me was that all the people of color in this graphic novel were very minor (like they showed up in one scene, had no lines and didn’t really affect the story in any major way.) I had hoped that given the hype, the graphic novel wouldn’t be so whitewashed but alas.

Don’t let that turn you off though, there is some diversity in the novel and the book is so adorable and so worth the read. I mean, it is one of my favorites of the year...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

The narrative of An Inheritance of Ashes grabbed me right away. It is hard to figure out what’s going on, but still I wanted to know. Hallie is 16. She and her older sister Marthe are trying to hold on to the family farm. Marthe is pregnant with her first child, and her husband has not returned from the far-off war he travelled to fight. Marthe and Hallie have an angry, uncommunicative relationship. Their father forced his own younger brother off the farm years ago, and now Hallie is afraid her sister will do the same to her.

The world building is, frankly, odd. It’s dystopian, but whatever returned civilization to a more primitive time happened decades ago. Now, strange, “twisted” creatures that burn whatever they touch have come into our world from another. A hero named John Balsam ended the war against them by tearing a hole through the other world, but the twisted things are still showing up on the farm.

Hallie, her neighbors, and a mysterious veteran who arrived at the farm seeking work and shelter for the winter must band together to figure out what is happening and save not only the farm but their entire community.

I found the twisted creatures on top of the dystopia a bit much. It seems unlikely that both scenarios would happen – the twisted things are never connected to whatever events crashed civilization in the first place. It might have been more effective to set the story in an unnamed primitive society rather than a fallen civilization. It just really didn’t make sense to me, but it  also didn’t bother me *that* much. I still enjoyed the story.

I liked some of the overwritten but unusual language, such as “Heron stood before me, stiff and unshaken, his peculiar grace bleeding into the very air. It wasn’t just northern manner, it was his sense of calling: the way a person held themselves high when they were devoted, without compromise, to something greater than themselves.” (p. 45 of the advance reader copy) There is some cringe-worthy dialog, especially between Hallie and the young man who wants to court her, to balance out the nice stuff.

The relentless negative relationship between Marthe and Hallie was hard to take at times, and the identity of the mysterious veteran is likely to be obvious to every reader even though it is not to the characters in the book. But I raced through this book and recommend it to readers who like dystopian coming-of-age stories. (Also, it has a gorgeous cover!)

I read an advance reader copy of An Inheritance of Ashes from It will be published on October 6 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

In the Dark by Deborah Moggach

At the risk of a weak pun, Deborah Moggach's In the Dark is a darker story about the owner and people of a boarding house in WWI London than her other two books about tenants and owners, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Heartbreak Hotel. They are more lighthearted and this book is more serious and tense. In the Dark is scheduled to be published in a hardback edition in the U.S. in November 2015. It actually was first published in an international paperback edition in 2007-08.

In this story the realities, consequences and naive concepts about the war are woven into the lives of the characters in subtle and stark ways. The war is an ever present element, either in the background or coming darkly forward. The main character, a war widowed mother of an adolescent boy, runs a boarding house for a collection of aging and injured people on the margins of life, each with some sort of handicap or loss. The story follows Eithne Clay as she tries to hold together her life and theirs by providing shelter and food for them, as well as income for herself and her son, with very little resources. Seeming good fortune comes her way in a raw, passion-filled marriage to the local butcher.

How this all unfolds reads like a script for an old Alfred Hitchcock TV show episode. There are a few Hitchcock-like twists, partly dark yet with ironic hope. Moggach has a sensitivity toward the emotional and personal stresses of life reflected in her characters and their difficulties, even if they play only a minor off-focus role. The butcher, Neville Turk, however, seems a little stilted and mechanical.

The title applies in a multitude of ways. Characters, soldiers, lovers, armies are each, literally and figuratively, in the dark, clueless at some time or another. Unfortunately the story seemed a little rushed in the wrap-up push to the conclusion of the book which comes at the close of the war.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy

By her own admission, author Vesna Goldworthy's book Gorsky owes its inspiration to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby. Her book is a "Gatsbyesque" read-a-like. One wonders why she wanted to use her creativity on a 21st century tweaked update of the 20th century predecessor. Title character Gorsky is a fabulously wealthy, as well as generous, Russian in contemporary London where he hopes to acquire the love of his life, Natalia, a willowy blonde Russian who is married to a less than honorable Brit. This is not to say that Gorsky is honorable since his wealth has been founded on the shadowy economic opportunities and activities of the Yeltsin era.

The story is told through the eyes of Serbian refugee/immigrant Nikola, who works in a run-down bookstore. Through circumstances he meets Natalia, Gorsky and others connected with each of them - designer's, artists, architects. Many of the cast of characters have connections to Russian mafia, drug dealing, adulterous liaisons and generally superficial lives supported by various levels of wealth. Gorsky hires Nikola to create a large and expensive book collection for the library in the cavernous house Gorsky is building in London. Nikola, while slightly beguiled by his contacts, especially Gorsky, in the end remains uncluttered in his life by possessions due to modest means and integral choice.

The back cover extols the book with praiseworthy descriptors, none of which I felt while reading the book. The advance reader cover summary speaks of Gorsky as wanting and getting the best of everything. Spoiler alert - he doesn't - either in the story or by the storyteller.

Goldsworthy does only an adequate job and perhaps she may stylistically echo Fitzgerald. If you are a Gatsby fan, give this book a try and see what you think. The book is due out in October from Overlook Press. I had been intrigued when I found it among the advance reader books at my local library. In disappointed retrospect, I should have probably overlooked it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Perfect Match by E.D. Baker

Series: Fairy Tale Matchmaker #2
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Middle Grade
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Source: ARC from BEA 2015

Add on Goodreads
When former tooth-fairy-in-training Cory Feathering was stripped of her fairy skills, she discovered that, as the descendent of a cupid, she was born to be a matchmaker, and now her latest job is to find the perfect match for Goldilocks--the only trouble is that he is getting married to someone else.
The last time I read a book by E.D. Baker, I was in middle school. I had loved the book and when I found out about this series, I was excited. I started this book enthusiastic but after reading a little bit of it, I realized this was a sequel and not actually the first book *shakes fist at Goodreads for not being helpful*

That may be one of the reasons why I didn’t absolutely enjoy this book but to be honest, I am not sure reading the first book would have made much of a difference. There are certain things I would have been more aware of (in terms of world building) but the author still does a good job catching readers up so that even if it’s been a while since you read book 1 (or if you somehow missed the fact that there was a book 1 and read the sequel first), you won’t feel lost.

A lot of my issues with the book stem down to the fact I didn’t really relate to the characters. That could be because I hadn’t read the first book and didn’t know them as well but that’s probably not it. I’ve accidentally read sequels before first books several times and managed to love the characters (I seem to do this more often than I should.) I think my inability to relate to the characters was because I was so thrown off by the fact that the characters’ behaviors did not match up to their ages. The characters seemed pretty old (maybe even older than 18?!) yet their voices were very middle grade. It isn’t surprising given the book is a middle grade novel but it just didn’t work for me as a reader.

I was drawn in by the premise but was sad when the main focus of this book was not in fact figuring out a way to make a guy who is going to get married end up with his one true love. That bit was wrapped up REALLY quickly. The main conflict of the novel seemed to be Cory’s fight against the various fairy counsels and the abuse she was facing at their hands.

Overall, the book wasn’t a bad one per-say but I did find myself wanting more. Still, I am intrigued by Cory and her crew and I want to see Cory kick the fairy counsel’s butt! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a series of short stories set in the Midwest all loosely connected to one main character and to food. I don’t normally care for this kind of narrative, but at least Kitchens of the Great Midwest moves forward chronologically instead of jumping around in time.

I found it slow starting but really enjoyed it once I got into it. Chapters are set in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota. Sad things happen, and touching things, but there is joy as well. We see inside the heads of a variety of Midwesterners, all of whom have a deep connection to food. Some recipes are included, and the plot is very up to date with the latest foodie trends.

I was left wondering what happened to some of the characters we met in various chapters and heard little or nothing more about, but that’s a sign of a well written short story. I do wish the book had a character chart, because I’m sure I missed some of the connections in the final chapter (which brings many of the characters together).

The book serves as a sort of recipe itself – a recipe for the life of one child born in the Midwest to Midwesterners whose life is focused on food.

I recommend Kitchens of the Great Midwest most for foodies from the Midwest, but other lovers of quirky literary fiction should also give it a try.

I read an advance reader copy of Kitchens of the Great Midwest. It is available at the Galesburg Public Library in print and electronic format.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Who Could That be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

Series: All the Wrong Questions #1
Genres: Humor, Mystery, Middle Grade
Release Date: October 24th, 2012
Publisher: Little Brown
Source: Bought

Add on Goodreads
The adventure began in a fading town. Far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket started an apprenticeship for a secret organization shrouded in mystery and secrecy. He asked questions that shouldn't have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published that shouldn't be read. Not even by you. Seriously, we recommend that you do NOT ask your parents for this, the first book in his new ALL THE WRONG QUESTIONS series.

I, like many other people, loved The Series of Unfortunate Events as a child so when I found out that this series would be a prequel of sorts, I was PUMPED. It only took me a couple years to getting around to reading the first book in this prequel series.

Lemony Snicket is probably one of my favorite characters ever so the fact that this series is all about a younger him made me really happy! I couldn’t wait to get inside his mind and see if he was just as awesome when he was younger. The answer to that is yes. However, this book just didn’t live up to the awesomeness of The Series of Unfortunate Events. The mystery element wasn’t as satisfying and I felt like it didn’t challenge me as much as The Series of Unfortunate Events did. There were also times when the book just jumped around in ways that didn’t work for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the book and it had me cracking up at several parts but it really doesn’t even begin to compare with The Series of Unfortunate Events.

One of the reasons this book probably didn’t blow my mind was because in some ways, all I really did was compare this book to The Series of Unfortunate Events and everyone knows that that’s probably not a good idea.

Who Could be At This Hour was a very fun read with an enjoyable mystery but one that didn’t challenge me so I was left feeling a little disappointed but I still plan on picking up the rest of the books in the series. I gots to have more of Lemony Snicket!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink and Jefferey Cranor

Genre: Surrealist Humor
Release: October 20th
Publisher: Harper Perennial

Add on Goodreads

Night Vale fans rejoice! The Welcome to Night Vale novel is almost out, and it does not disappoint.
For those unfamiliar with the highly popular podcast, Welcome to Night Vale started three years ago as a story-based podcast set in the eerie desert town of Night Vale, where conspiracy theories are true and weird is the norm. Taking the form of a community radio show hosted by narrator Cecil, Welcome to Night Vale quickly became well known both for its surreal setting and humor as well as for its clever use of social commentary.
Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel effectively pays tribute to the eerie weirdness of the desert town many of us have become familiar with, incorporating characters and locations already well known to listeners of the podcast, while also providing a completely new story easily accessible to those of us who have never heard of federally mandated pizza or hidden cities under the bowling alley. The story revolves around two women who deal with living in Night Vale as a single mother and as a business owner (respectively) in very different ways. It tackles issues concerning age versus maturity, the right time to share difficult information with children, and uncertainty over identity, all with a delicate mix of weird humor and sincerity.
Unfortunately, the novel suffers a little from stretches of inaction which are only slightly relieved by the various absurdities of Night Vale. It did at certain points feel very much like an extended episode of the podcast, which while entertaining felt at times like the balance between telling the story and establishing the setting became awkwardly lopsided.

That being said, once the action picks up the reader is once again pulled eagerly through the strange world of Night Vale. Overall, Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel, though a little slow and clunky at times, proved just as entertaining, spooky, and timely in its treatment of social issues as the podcast it shares a name with. It makes a great introduction to the world of Night Vale to newcomers, and scratches at the itch we listeners always feel between long awaited episodes. A great read for those who enjoy Kafka, Mikhail Bulgakov, Haruki Murakami, H. P. Lovecraft, or Stephen King.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Story of Awkward by R.K. Ryals

Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, New Adult
Release Date: April 11th, 2014
Source: Bought

Add on Goodreads
If you are looking for a happy book about beautiful people, this is the wrong story. 
If you are looking for a narrative without emotion, without regrets, and without mistakes, this is definitely the wrong story. 

This is by no means an uncomplicated tale about uncomplicated people. It is by no means sweet or light. 

This story is ugly. 
This story is complicated. 
This story is emotional. 
This story is tragic. 

In short, this story is about being awkward. 

Peregrine Storke is an artist with an odd sketchbook full of pictures she’s drawn since she was a child. It is a book full of strange sketches and awkward characters, for there is no better way to hide from bullying and life than to create a world of your own. With a stroke of her pencil, she has given life to a spectacled princess, a freckle-nosed king, a candy loving troll, a two-horned unicorn, and a graceless fairy. 

At nineteen, Peregrine leaves her home, her sketchbook, and awkwardness behind. But what happens when something goes wrong in the world of Awkward? Trapped inside of her complex realm with the bully she thought to leave behind, Peregrine discovers there is nothing worse than falling for your own villain.

You know what I would have thought improbable about two weeks ago? Falling in love with a freebie novel I snagged from Amazon. It happened though. The Story of Awkward made me feel all the feels. It was an emotional rollercoaster and it was 100% worth it.

This is a book many people will be able to relate to. Are you awkward? Do you sometimes have trouble embracing yourself? Is it hard to sometimes remember that you are perfect the way you are? Then you’ve come to the right place.

The Story of Awkward tells the story of a girl named Peregrine. She created the world of Awkward as a way to escape all the badness in her real life. From bullying to her emotionally abusive father to her in-different mother. The thing is, in spite of all these issues, the book doesn’t start off in a bad place. It starts off with Peregrine ready to go to college and excited for a fresh start.

But, a near death accident transports her, and her tormentor (who also happens to be her best friend’s brother) to the world she imagined as a kid. To Awkward. And Awkward is in trouble. It will be up to Peregrine and Foster (her tormentor) to save it.

Awkward was an awkward world. There will be some things about it that don’t make sense but I decided to go with the flow and ignore those tid bits because it is still a wonderfully imagined world and SO CREATIVE!

This book takes us on an adventure to save a prince who has been lured in by perfection but it also takes us on a journey of self-acceptance. The book also features a super cute romance between Foster and Peregrine.

I know what you might be thinking, “BUT HE TORMENTED HER”, and I felt that too but Ryals does such a fantastic job with the romance and makes the two SO EASY TO SHIP. Their romance is wonderfully developed and doesn’t turn into instalove when it easily could have. I loved watching them support one another and help each other feel accepted.

This is a fantastic book written in a unique voice and it so loveable. It features a strong yet awkward female lead, a cute romance, an interesting world and also a great message. Defintiely a book I’d recommend and it’s still a freebie on amazon SO GO CHECK IT OUT!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Diet Myth by Tim Spector

After reading The Diet Myth: Why the Secret to Health and Weight Loss is Already in Your Gut, by Tim Spector, you will realize you are never alone when you eat. You are host to millions of microbes in your gastrointestinal track that are eating with you. Talk about intimate dining! And each one of us has a different combination and balance of those microbes, influenced by a wide range of factors - heredity, culture, environment and food itself.

Spector is Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King's College London. He has done extensive research on the genetics of twins. Some of this has led him to questions regarding what people eat and what is really happening to the food and to them.

Using the format of a typical nutrition label, Spector covers the topics of calories, fats, proteiens, carbs, sugars, fibre, additives, vitamins and warnings. He discusses existing theories, past thinking, current research and speculations about diet, health and our bodies. In our diets, what works, what doesn't? Why does a "one-size fits all" approach to a diet fail?

Spector clearly, with wry humor, navigates scientific research, including his own failures and successes with food choices. It appears our internal microbial "company" thrives on having a great diversity of foods - the greater the diversity the better for the microbes and, ultimately, us.

The book is written in an approachable manner, one topic easily leading to another. It can help make sense of the bewildering abundance of stuff out there about food, weight and health, giving the reader literal "IN-sight."

Scheduled to be published September 2015.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Kill by Jane Casey

Wow, this series just keeps getting better! The Kill is the fifth book in Jane Casey's Maeve Kerrigan series, and it was a nail biter for me, with a great plot and twists I didn’t see coming. Cops are being killed, seemingly at random. The premise made me think quite a bit about what’s going on in the United States right now.

Jane Casey’s real strength is character development, and I was legitimately worried about what was going to happen to some of the main characters in this series while reading The Kill. Although, like many police procedurals, this one features a romantic relationship for the main character, it was not the focus. Maeve’s significant other Rob was hardly in The Kill. But the other two men in her life were front and center.

There is Superintendent Charles “God” Godley, her boss, who has a fine reputation but has been feeding information to a criminal for years and no one but Maeve knows it. Godley is finally starting to crack under the strain. Then there is Detective Inspector Josh Derwent, her sexist pig of a coworker who has surprising depth and strength. The relationship between Josh and Maeve has been stretched and beaten into a real friendship, and their dialogue is a treat to read.

If you like police procedurals, I can’t recommend Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series enough. It’s a great one. I envy anyone just picking up book one when there are four more to read right away!

The Galesburg Public Library owns all five books in the series. The first, The Burning, can be found in the adult Fiction section under the author's last name, Casey. They are also available as ebooks through the Alliance Digital Media Library (

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bold Tricks by Karina Halle

Series: The Artists Trilogy #3
Genres: Romantic Suspense, Adult
Release Date: December 14th, 2014
Publisher: Forever
Source: Won in Giveaway

Add on Goodreads
The faster they live, the harder they fall...

Raised by con artists, Ellie Watt has a lot of crazy childhood memories - but none more so than being scarred with acid by crime boss Travis Raines. Now Travis has kidnapped her good friend Gus as well as her mother. And Ellie has only one chance of getting them out alive - using two dangerous men who love her to death...

One is Camden McQueen, a talented tattoo artist who's made a permanent mark on Ellie's heart. The other is Javier Bernal, her fiery ex-lover. From the streets of Mexico City to the jungles of Honduras, this unlikely trio forms an uneasy alliance in the deadliest game of all - a battle to the finish that will pit enemy against enemy and lover against lover. And Ellie must choose the right man to trust...or die.

After putting off reading this book for over a year, I decided it was time (plus it was just sitting there on my shelf, waiting to be read so I HAD to.) Bold Tricks; however, just wasn't as good as its predecessors.

I am not one for angsty novels but if there is anyone who can make me enjoy one, it’s Karina Halle. She knows how to make angsty situations come off as realistic rather than annoying and bothersome. It’s what sold this series to me in the first place.

Camden, Ellie and Javier have always been complex characters. There is no black and white when it comes to them, only the grey. And for some readers that won’t work. I didn’t think it would work for me! But Halle has a way of making it work which was why I gobbled up the first two books in this series in spite of the things that frustrated me.

This time around, Camden and Ellie still had some awesome moments but most of their moments were cheesy and cringeworthy. Like REALLY cringeworthy. Also given some of the things that happened in the previous book, you’d think Ellie would do some grovelling but she kind of just expects things to go back to normal because she lurves Camden.

Javier was the highlight of the book. And me saying this is kind of a big deal since I never liked him in the first place. He is such a complex character and even though you know not to trust him, sometimes, like Ellie, you’ll find yourselves doing exactly that. He is a sketchy character but his moves aren’t always predictable (even if they aren’t surprising.)

The plot aspect of this book was well done and Bold Tricks was just as addicting as its predecessors. I loved the hunt and I loved how those things wrapped up.

Overall, I’d say Bold Tricks was a decent conclusion to the series but I would have liked it better had Ellie and Camden not turned into cheesy goop around each other(I only like cheese in/on my food, not my books.)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

The main reason I chose this book was because Steve Hamilton is one of my favorite writers. I didn't realize that this book was the very first in a brand new series starring Nick Mason, who is just getting out of jail on the first page. He served 5 years on a 25-year sentence, and after being free for literally less than a minute, he gets into a waiting Escalade and begins his "second life." This book is suspenseful, smart, sarcastic and well-written. As you can imagine, Nick is going to have to pay someone back for his early release, and this is where the story begins. I can tell that this will be a great series and I can't wait to read more! If you like suspense, quick wit, and smart rugged characters, then you will like this series! Read On!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lord Fenton's Folly by Josi S. Kilpack

Shadow Mountain Publishing has a line of books called Proper Romance. They are clean romantic reads without sex, violence, and bad language. I've read quite a few Proper Romances and find the line a welcome addition to the world of romance novels.

The newest is Lord Fenton's Folly by Josi S. Kilpack, which has a gorgeous cover. I really enjoyed A Heart Revealed, Kilpack's previous Proper Romance, which concerned a woman during the Regency period suffering from profound hair loss (and which the Galesburg Public Library has in the adult Fiction section).

Lord Fenton's Folly also addresses an issue of the times - what to do with a child with mental impairment - but it's a minor sideplot this time around. Lord Fenton does not respect his father and tried to embarrass him by playing the foppish fool and adopting macaroni fashion. His father, fed up with the behavior, lays down some ultimatums that Fenton must agree to or be disinherited. One of the conditions is that Fenton must marry. On his mother's advice, he proposed to Alice, a young woman he knew as a child. She has had a crush on him for ten years and thinks he feels the same. She is angered and hurt when she finds out otherwise.

They marry all the same, and the novel watches them deal with personal crises, learn family secrets, and gradually come to rely on and love each other.

I did not enjoy Lord Fenton's Folly quite as much as A Heart Revealed. It was very slow moving, and I would have liked more character development during the long period in which the young married couple was estranged. Lord Fenton in his foppish persona annoyed me as much as he annoyed his father. There are frequent references to witty banter, and yet there isn't much witty banter in the dialog. I was definitely ready for the "falling in love" stage of the marriage before it finally happened.

Still, I am happy to have this category of romance to recommend to readers who want a clean love story, to lovers of Regency romances, and to Jane Austen fans. I read a digital copy of Lord Fenton's Folly. It will be published on October 6 and will be available in the new adult Fiction section of the Galesburg Public Library.