This is a hard book to categorize. Is it a dual biography? A history of a region? An environmental paean to a place? A literary memoir of the West? A road book to both grand and despoiled places?
It’s all of the above and more. Gessner began the book as a tribute to two western writers who have inspired him: Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner. Gessner went to grad school in Colorado and fell in love with the southwest. Abbey and Stegner became his heroes and teachers, although not literally—he learned through their writing.
Miwanzo is the Swahili word for “beginnings.” In this fascinating fictional biography, this word could stand for so many things: Beryl Clutterbuck’s family arriving in Africa from England when she was a child of four; the young girl establishing a close emotional bond with the local native families, known as Kipsigis; the first time she trained a thoroughbred on her own; and the first time she piloted a plane.
What an exciting life Beryl led. Beryl was one of those women who pushed against the boundaries of convention to fully partake in life.
She became the first female licensed racehorse trainer in Africa and the horses under her care won many races. She became an early bush pilot in Africa and the first woman aviator to fly across the Atlantic from east to west. Read more about Circling the Sun
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is a fast paced, beautifully imagined fantasy. Seraphina is a talented musician working at the royal court, but she also has a dangerous secret she has to keep - she is half dragon. In the world of this novel dragons can inhabit their natural form or a human form called a Saar. While in their human form they have forged a treaty with Seraphina's home country of Goredd, but it is a tenuous peace with both sides still holding deep prejudices against each other.
Seraphina finds herself thrust into the very heart of conflict. The story is adventurous, mysterious, political, and romantic. Seraphina is a character to root for and one who will find her way into readers' hearts. Pick up this fabulous book (or it's sequel Shadow Scale) and let it transport you to a new world.