Reviews

Rat Queen, Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis Wiebe

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, a dwarf, an elf, a smidgen, and a wizard start a fight in a tavern… no, well, that is how the saga of the mercenary band known as Rat Queens begins. As the title suggests, there is plenty of humor and magic throughout this volume, but the story does not shy from mature themes and there are frequent bouts of intense violence. Rat Queens also flows as though the reader is playing through a classic D&D campaign, and while this could be seen as a hindrance, in fact this allows the story to soar. Wiebe has managed to capture the essence of a D&D campaign and turn it into a rollickingly fun graphic novel. Suggested for mature readers who enjoy D&D and fantasy stories.

After a rather energetic disagreement in a local inn, all of the mercenary bands in the city of Palisade, including the Rat Queens, are assigned a quest as a form of ‘community service.’ What none of them know is that there is a group of assassins waiting for them at their destination. After narrowly surviving this attempt on their lives, and an unexpected (as well as brutal) battle with a troll, the Rat Queens have to figure out who wants to kill them and why. This mystery drives the story and as the unidentified forces opposing the Rat Queens coalesce, readers will be rewarded with an epic showdown.

A fun and novel take on a classic genre, Rat Queens is a brutal romp through a world fantasy readers will find instantly recognizable. Populated with a crew of tough-as-nails, diverse women and driven by excellent storytelling and gorgeous art, Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery is a story that should not be missed.

Our Souls at Night

This moving book describes a love affair late in life. It’s set in the fictional county of Holt, Colorado. One day Addie Moore visits her neighbor Louis.  Louis almost falls off his chair when she asks him if he will come to her house and sleep with her that night.  To share conversation, Addie adds, “not sex.”

Shortly after their night visits have begun (pajamas and toothbrush, paper bag will travel), Louis asks Addie, “Why me?” She answers with a question, do you think I’d just invite anyone. Because you’re a good man, that’s why I chose you.

Haruf, writes laconically, the kind of conversation you might expect from a man raised in a small agricultural town two hours east of Colorado Springs. Yet he succeeds masterfully at tackling the deep subjects: love, death, marriage, the friction between adult children and their parents.

Happy Birthday, National Park Service, 100 Years!

Terry Tempest Williams writes passionately about our natural world in the tradition of Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopard, Annie Dillard, and Edward Abbey.

This book--timed to come out with the hundredth year anniversary of the National Park System--argues strongly about the necessity of keeping our park lands protected. It also reinforces why we need them in our modern world.

“Whenever I go to a national park, I meet the miraculous,” she writes in the opening section. She also says that our national parks “are blood. They are more than scenery, they are portals and thresholds of wonder.” Having just returned from Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, I heartily second that.

Although she has visited many parks, and some, over and over, she has chosen twelve to highlight here. And I love how she does it. Not only does she share personal anecdotes about each of the twelve, but she uses various formats to do so.  For example, in the Big Bend section, she includes journal entries she wrote while there. Through riffs, all on a color theme, she shares what she saw and experienced there.

A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas

This romantic, fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast is sure to make your heart skip a beat. Feyre is a young woman, struggling to support her family. They once lived the lives of prosperous merchants, but now have lost everything and are starving in a hovel. Feyre has taught herself to hunt and spends her time out in the dangerous winter woods. After taking down a deer and an enormous wolf, Feyre finally has food for her family and some extra money from selling the wolf's pelt. Just when she's feeling a little comfortable, an enormous wolf-like creature bursts into her family's home, demanding she pay the price for killing a fairie. It turns out the wolf was actually a fairie in disguise and now Feyre must either forfeit her life, or go with the creature to the fairie lands of Prythian forever. 

Feyre goes with the creature across the border that keeps the mortals safe from the powerful immortal fey and into the land of Prythian. She discovers that the wolf is actually a High Fey male named Tamlin who can change his shape. He tells Feyre that his estate in the Spring Lands is her home now, but Feyre knows that this beautiful place is not all it seems to be. Dangerous creatures roam the woods and an unknown terror is gaining strength across the land. 

Feyre's story will be familiar to readers as well as new and exciting. She is a strong young woman with a mind of her own who refuses to give up who she is. Sarah J. Maas is a wonderful new voice in YA fantasy with both this series and her Throne of Glass series. She writes unforgettable characters who will inspire readers. Her worlds are easy to lose yourself in and will feel very real. Some of the content of this particular series is mature so it's recommended for older teen readers. If you've already read, and loved, this book, then you should pick up A Court of Mist and Fury. The sequel is even better than the first one! Happy Reading!

Pretty Deadly Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Set within a fantastical Old West world, Pretty Deadly opens with the legend of Death Faced Ginny, Death’s skull-faced daughter, and her quest for vengeance, as told by the young girl Sissy and her blind guardian Fox. However, there is more to the tale than is initially revealed, and as Sissy begins to dig deeper into Ginny’s legend, she triggers a long-simmering prophecy and quest that will shatter everything she thought she knew. While the story does have a slow beginning, the pace and scope increase throughout, revealing secrets, legends, and history that continually heighten the reader’s suspense and investment.

Overall, Pretty Deadly is a maelstrom of storytelling and imagination that will stick with readers long after the final page. This tale deftly weaves together many storytelling traditions that are not often part of graphic novels and emerges the stronger for it. The colors and artwork are perfectly suited to the story and evoke a surreal, yet viscerally real canvas for the story to play out upon. A violent and beautiful epic that is equal parts myth, fantasy, and fairy tale, all swirling together to create a haunting and unforgettable story. Suggested for mature readers who enjoy fractured fairy/folktales, fantasy, westerns, and adventure.

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell

"Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen." 

Simon has been sent to save the World of Mages, but he's actually not very good at magic. He can't control his power and spends most of his time worrying about the location of his probably a vampire roommate, Baz. Simon is a wonderfully flawed character who is only a little bit like another famous chosen magic user...coughhackHarryPottercough. He's adrift in a world of magic with his friend, Penny, his girlfriend, Agatha, and his nemesis/roommate, Baz. The Insidious Humdrum is draining magic and threatening everything Simon holds dear. He's been attacking Simon regularly since he was 11 and started at Watford School of Magicks, but now, in his last year, their conflict is set to come to an epic conclusion.

For readers who are feeling lost without Harry Potter (at least until the end of the month, come on Cursed Child!) this will be a welcome treat. Watford is just different enough from Hogwarts to be new and exciting, while being similar enough to feel like coming home. The World of Mages is an interesting one and the rules of magic are very different from the Wizarding World. For Simon and the other mages, it's all about the words you use. A turn of phrase that "normals" use can hold strong power for a mage. Not every mage uses a wand to focus their power either - some use rings, swords, or even belt buckles! 

Pick up this excellent fantasy adventure if you're in the mood for some great summer reading. Don't forget to sign up for the Teen Summer Reading Program to earn points for all that reading. Grand prizes are Beats headphones, a GoPro, and a bluetooth speaker!

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