Job Title: Guest Reviewer
Your favorite book you read last year: There’s too many to pick just one!
Favorite book when you were a child: The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones
Your top five authors: They change depending on which decade of life I’m in, but these authors I always read when a new book of theirs comes out: Lois McMaster Bujold, Lindsey Davis, Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Connie Willis
Book You've Faked Reading: Recently, I added Trust by Hernan Diaz as read to Good Reads (really am only halfway through) but I did also read the last chapter so that counts, right?!
Book you are an evangelist for: I like to advocate for all books.
Book you've bought for the cover: I gravitate to buying gardening books for their beautiful covers.
Favorite genres to read: In Fiction re-workings of fairy tales and folktales, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Mystery & Romance.
Favorite Quote: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius
Song or artist that you are always listening to: E Lucevan Le Stelle an aria from the opera Tosca
Best way to spend a weekend: Reading of course!
Your go-to pick for movie night: Likely a Kdrama.
Favorite vacation destination: Coastal Maine.
Window or Aisle: Window
Best TV or movie adaptation of a book: Persuasion by Jane Austen, the 1995 version
Anne's Recent Reviews
A gripping YA mystery starring two seeming very dissimilar teenage girls. Lydia Chass, hard-working student with a bright future ahead of her, and Bristal Jamison, daughter of a family with a long-standing bad reputation, have to work together to solve a murder that happened in their small town during a time that has been labelled the Long Stretch of Bad Days.
From Katherine Applegate, a Newbery Medalist, comes a sweet, free verse middle-grade reader story about a curious and mischievous young otter named Odder. Based loosely on otters in the Monterey Bay Aquarium otter rescue program in California, you will learn both about the program-how it rescues orphaned baby otters, and rehabilitates also, if needed, while learning fun facts about this cute sea mammal.
I’ve really enjoyed Holly Black’s YA series. Book of Night is her adult debut, and it’s just as enjoyable. Lushly dark fantasy with an interesting magical system headed by magicians called Gloamists, who work shadows to do whatever they want think murder, blackmail etc. Gloamists use grimoires, which they guard jealously. Charlie Hall is a former thief of said grimoires now trying to go straight. She is trying to keep the lights on for her, her younger sister and boyfriend by barkeeping at a dive bar, but is soon drawn back into stealing when trying to save her sister and figure out what is going on with her boyfriend both who seem to have sinister ties to Gloamists. Looks like this is the start of a series so be warned if you do not like waiting on sequels (still waiting semi-patiently for Leigh Bardago’s Ninth House continuation).
Moshin Hamid dream-like, elegantly sparse take on Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Hamid’s white everyman Ander’s wakes up to find that his skin has turned dark. Ander at first hides and only tells Oona, a friend and occasional lover. They navigate the profound effect on how he views himself and how others view him as reports of similar changes are happening around the world. While Hamid touches on how people regard the change with suspicion and distrust, he is also careful to point out that many react with love and empathy.
What to do when a prophecy actually is just plain wrong? The Art of Prophecy turns the typical fantasy trope of the chosen one on its head in a rip-roaring martial arts magical story. Petulant teenager Jian, our titular prophesied hero, is destined to fight and defeat the Eternal Khan, the immortal god-king, unfortunately, the Eternal Khan gets himself knocked off while drunk by an ordinary foot soldier, which leaves everyone scratching their heads. Jian is now at best inconvenient at worst dangerous to the political status quo. Jian is not long for the world when Grandmaster Taishi snatches him away and dumps him on a former lover, and his school of martial arts for safety and further training, since she has a feeling that he might still prove useful, once he does some growing up!
Thrilling, romantic and fast-paced, This Vicious Grace starts off with main female character Alessa having to choose her marriage partner, which once done will help power her magic. Extremely important since she is the only one with strong enough magic able to stop the horde of demons coming to destroy her country, the only issue is that every other partner she has picked has died after her touch. Already dealing with grief, trauma and stress, Alessa discovers that her guardians and soldiers trusted to keep her safe are planning on assassinating her with the belief that a new chosen savior will rise. Alessa quickly turns towards the mysterious Dante hiring him as her personal bodyguard. Can Alessa find a partner that can stand her touch in time? Just who and what is Dante’s story? Can Alessa, Dante and their new companions figure how to work together to save their country? This Vicious Grace is a strong, enjoyable debut in the YA fantasy category.
This is a comprehensive, concise and fun look at the origins and history of our Milky Way. Speaking in an autobiographical voice we are told how the Milky Way was “born” some thirteen billion years ago when the gravitional attraction of clouds of gas and the universe’s plasma got it on resulting in the brand-new galaxy we call home. Moving through childhood, the teens, and adulthood the Milky Way tells its’ story of making friends, enemies and falling in love with various astronomical entities like black holes, stars, and other galaxies. If you enjoyed Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, then The Milky Way is a nice addition to your library.
A sweet, sharp-witted take on both the world of scientific chemistry and the chemistry between humans. Elizabeth Zott, living in the 1960’s, has to navigate through some pretty grim school and job situations to realize her dream of being a scientist, and the ways she perseveres makes her story a delight and triumph to read. Throw in one of the best romances of the year so far with Calvin Evans, fellow scientist and the top scientist at their company, and watch the sparks fly.
Tracy Flick Can’t Win is set decades later from Election (highly recommend), but can be read as a stand-alone story. Tracy is nowhere near where she believed she would be at this time in her life. She is now a single Mom and hard-working high school assistant principal in suburban New Jersey with a well deserved shot at becoming Principal. That is, just as long as politics, plotting colleague’s, and life doesn’t get in her way.
Hugo and Nebula award winner, T Kingfisher has done a masterful job re-crafting Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher in her new book What Moves the Dead. Childhood friends Alex (pronouns ka and kan), and twins Roderick and Madeline Usher are trapped in the Usher’s chilling, decaying and haunted manor. As Madeline’s health rapidly declines, Alex and Roderick are pushed to the edge trying to save her life and all their sanities. I would highly recommend anything by T Kingfisher, and What Moves the Dead is a great introduction to her style and writing. Credit also for the cover it captures the eeriness of the story perfectly!
If you enjoy imaginative re-tellings of classic mythology, then Circe needs to be added to your reading list immediately. Award-winning author Madeline Miller crafts a fast-paced, absorbing, and ultimately life-affirming story. We are immersed in Circe’s fraught birth and childhood in the vicious court of Helios, the god of sun and her father. When she is banished to a desert island by Zeus for the crime of witchcraft, her long exile provides a rich environment for her practice. A veritable who's who of Greek mythology crosses the pages, and Madeline Miller breathes much-appreciated life into the old stories.
These novellas remind me a little of The Journey to the West, but with a strong feminist stance. The cleric, Chih, and companions travel to uncover, discover and record stories that need to be chronicled. In turns scary, funny, sad and epic, I highly recommend taking some time and picking up them all. Bonus, a new one is coming the Fall of 2022!
If you are a fan of Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forester, then the new series by J.H Gelernter should be on your reading list! Set during the Napoleonic Wars, these books are fast- paced and meticulously researched. Action, espionage, and an engaging main character in former British Naval Intelligence officer Thomas Grey provide a fun way to spend some time preferably at your favorite beach! Hold Fast is the first in the series and introduces main character Thomas Grey, former top agent of His Majesty’s Secret Service. While in mourning for the tragic death of his wife, Grey decides to travel to Boston to start a new life, however, he’s quickly catapulted back into the war and espionage when his ship is attacked by French privateers. Forced to land in Portugal, he’s approached by French intelligence to turn against the British. I’ll let you enjoy reading the rest!
These mysteries remind me a lot of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plums series in tone. Equal parts zany, hilarious and scary, main female character Finlay is a newly divorced mom of two struggling to juggle her writing career, motherhood, dating and her hugely mistaken secret identity as a contract killer. As you could guess none are going to plan, especially, when the deaths start stacking up. Highly recommend, if you are looking to laugh, gasp and marvel at how wrong good intentions really can go.
This is a fascinating take on the history of Hollywood. From the silent era up to present day the authors have weaved together stories from almost three thousand interviews from legendary directors, stars and all the people behind the scenes that work so hard to create one of the only truly modern art forms.
I do enjoy dystopian fiction, but it’s so great to have the start of a new YA fantasy series. Susan Dennard has created an atmospheric world rich with mythology and characters that you care about. Winnie is the teenage daughter of the man that the Luminary clans, which protect the world from nightmares made flesh, has declared a witch, and thus has outcast their whole family. She’s desperate to help her family in any way she can and the only way forward seems to be the hunter trails. A series of dangerous missions that young clan members are required to survive to earn standing in the clans, however, she’s woefully undersupplied and untrained. She not only survives the first trial, but is credited in killing one of the monsters even though it was an unknown threat that was the culprit. Knowing that she will not be so lucky in the next trial she enlists the help of a former friend and clan member, Jay Friday, the best hunter of their age. He has secrets of his own though, which might threaten her plans and safety.
In this fun, yet also thought-provoking memoir written during Covid lock-down, best-selling author Peggy Orenstein, alternatively made me laugh out loud at times, but also led me to examine some of my own beliefs and practices especially regarding how I purchase clothes, and how this basic thing that everyone does, impacts our global environment.
The author, Laurie Zaleski had a rough childhood. Her young mother Annie McNulty ended up fleeing an abusive marriage with three young children and very little money. However, she didn’t let that stop her from doing whatever she could to help out animals also in need of rescue due to injury, neglect or abuse. Now, living on rented land with her children and many animals she christened it the Funny Farm. This inspired Laurie to continue her mother’s work, after her passing, in a new home and acreage named the Funny Farm in memento. Told in alternative flashbacks of Laurie’s childhood and present day this was a sometimes terrifying read due to her Father’s rages and malicious attempts to make his ex-wife’s life hellacious, but also extremely motivating, and the stories about the animals are pure joy.
An in-depth look at the Academy Awards from their inception to now. Full of juicy details on the behind the scene battles that have occurred from the very start of Hollywood, and the larger than life people that have both won and lost the covet golden statue. This is a very good companion to Hollywood: The Oral History.
If you are going to read a thriller this year, I’d highly recommend this dark, addictive, satirical debut! Our heroine is tired of living in fear for herself, her family and friends’ safety from predatory males, and after an incident where a man ends up dead, events steam-roll to a highly satisfactory finale.
This is the first novel in a series so be warned that the wait for the sequels might be difficult- it’s that good. The author’s world building is first rate, and the characters are relatable. Nothing takes me out of a story faster than characters making stupid decisions only to further the plot. Lore, our heroine, has many secrets that the royal court of Dellaire would be very interested in, and how she navigates her course through the danger all around her is highly addictive.
This was a fascinating Non-fiction read, so far, it’s my favorite of 2023.
Recently divorced Lee Durkee goes on a quest to find a contemporary portrait of William Shakespeare. As no one picture through the ages has been proven to be the real Shakespeare. Equal parts memoir and detective story, Durkee travels the world searching out paintings and cajoles and harasses curators to test their portraits using X-ray and infrared technologies. The mystery of who Shakespeare was only seems to grow the longer he searches.