Reviews

All at Sea

This beautiful memoir had me weeping several times. The opening chapter describes in vivid detail the death of the author’s partner by drowning on a winter vacation to Jamaica. He died in the usual tranquil bay outside their cottage after he entered the wild surf to rescue their small son, Jake.

Decca, a Guardian journalist and author, noticed both her partner Tony and son flailing in the water. She ran to the beach, dove in and swam out to them, whereupon her partner passed their son to her and she swam back pulling her son by the chin. She assumed all was well, and that the morning would just provide an embarrassing story that they would later share about this vacation.

But when she turned to look over the bay, she noticed that Tony was much further out then he had been, and he was fighting both the waves and the current. She almost swam out to him, but a friend stopped her and pointed to three men who were already assisting Tony.

Decca felt reassured, but Tony kept flailing. The men pulled him in, and on the beach, white foam poured from his mouth. A local doctor bent over him, and felt his pulse, but Tony had died. It seemed unbelievable to Decca because most of the time he had not been underwater. This made her recall a conversation that they had shared at a party about how you could drown in a teaspoon full of water.

The Past

This novel is a dense, rich celebration of an English family, first in the present time, then in the past--the late 60s and early 70s.

In the first half, four siblings: Harriet, Alice, Roland, and Jane meet at the old family homestead near the sea for a family reunion.  The house is being sold, and it will be their last time together at their childhood home.

Accompanying them, are children (Jane’s), a new South American wife (Roland’s--his third), a young friend, and son of a former lover (Alice’s), and all alone, (Harriet).

In the siblings’ idiosyncratic fashion, Harriet arrives first; she leaves the house locked and goes wandering in the forest.  Alice arrives with Kasim, and then realizes, what she has done, brought an eighteen-year old to a place with nothing going on. Roland calls and says there will be delay, and that he and Pilar will arrive on Sunday.

Alice runs through the house, throwing open windows, picking and placing beautiful bouquets in each of the adults’ room, while Jane, the mom, practically begins cooking the evening meal as her two children, Ivy and Arthur explore.

Privately, Jane and Harriet discuss whether Kazim is more than a friend to wild, actress Alice. Kazim reads on the porch terribly bored. But on Sunday when Roland, Pilar and Molly, Roland’s sixteen year old daughter, arrive. Kazim immediately perks up at Molly’s appearance.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Put on your robes, fasten your house tie (Hey to all my Ravenclaws!), and grab a few pumpkin pasties. We're going back to Hogwarts and it's about time. When we last left Harry, Ron, and Hermione they were dropping their children off at Platform 9 3/4 and, "All was well." Unfortunately for Harry and the gang, that wasn't the case for very long.

In this new story from J.K. Rowling writing with playwrights John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, Potter fans get to go back to the wizarding world. Our favorite trio is all grown up with families of their own, important positions in the Ministry of Magic, and newfound adult aches and pains. It's their children's generation who now take center stage. Quite literally, as this new story is a play. The show is currently running in London and will, hopefully, one day come to the US. Until then, we muggles can read the script. 

The Cursed Child is a much different story than the original Harry Potter novels, but with all the charm we've come to expect. Reading a script, for those who have never attempted, isn't all that different from reading a novel. It's more condensed since you're watching the action unfold rather than reading long descriptions, but readers will still find themselves immersed in the story Rowling is telling. It's a story of parent child relationships, friendship, redemption, and what it means to be the son of THE Harry Potter. This muggle was happy to check in on old friends and excited to find new favorite characters (I'm looking at you Scorpius Malfoy).

The holds list is long, but worth the wait. Maybe pick up the original novels on audiobook while you're waiting. Trust me, it's like experiencing the story again for the first time. The narrator, Jim Dale, is that good. And, for those of you who've already experienced The Cursed Child, make sure to stop by The Ground Floor and talk to me about it! I have some FEELINGS that cannot adequately be expressed right now. Because spoilers. Happy Reading!

How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe's Path from the Caribbean to Siberia

Anyone following the news these days sees far too many disasters:  from wildfires to typhoons, mega-rain storms to landslides, tornados to earthquakes. This book examines how humans react to disasters, what is causing them, and what the future may bring.

Written by the father/son team of Stan and Paul Cox, this book looks at twelve major disasters in depth including some still in progress. The chapter “Atlantis of the Americas” covers the flooding of Miami, Fl. that happens now even on clear days, and is expected to eventually make the city uninhabitable.

In “Gray Goo: East Java, Indonesia,” the Coxes examines an event that caused massive amounts of mud to erupt over what was once a crowded middle class area.  The authors believe that a mining operation triggered this extremely destructive mud volcano. As in many disasters, the authors show how the government got stuck with a huge bill while powerful companies got off the hook.

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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