“Exhalation” is a collection of science fiction short stories. The author works in the software industry and is clearly knowledgeable about scientific principles and technology and curious about its possibilities. His stories often blend the scientific with the spiritual, and invoke a lot of moral and ethical questions. My favorite stories were “Omphalos” which focuses on a narrator struggling to reconcile her faith and purpose in light of new scientific evidence, and “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling” which deals with the flexibility of memory, how we construct narratives about ourselves and our worlds, and how different forms of technology can shape those narratives.
Three words that describe this book: Thought-provoking, enlightening, well-crafted
You might want to pick this book up if: You like humanistic science fiction.
“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is a modern fairy tale in the way that only Neil Gaiman can write. The protagonist returns to his rural hometown for a funeral, and finds himself recovering strange memories of events that happened when he was seven years old. Could they have really happened? Could he really have befriended an eleven year old girl who was actually as old as time itself? Could he have brought an ill-tempered spirit home with him from the edges of reality? Could he have died and come back to life? How is it possible that memories could be ripped out and new ones stitched together?
I love the way Gaiman weaves a story, and this one leaves just enough to the imagination of the reader, while being set in a fully-imagined world. It was a quick read—I did it in one sitting on a sick day in bed — and a wonderful escape from what’s going on in the real world. The characters are well-drawn; the “scenery” is at turns idyllic and horrifying.
Three words that describe this book: Magical, quick, fantasy
You might want to pick this book up if: You loved fairy tales as a child, and still love them as an adult.
Set in 1976 in the fictional Missouri towns of Jessup and Dry Creek somewhere south of Jefferson City, “Nothing More Dangerous” is a coming of age novel of race, crime and the meaning of family. The writing is excellent, and the story, as told through the eyes of the fifteen year-old narrator, is compelling and often poignant. It’s a gritty crime tale told against a backdrop of cultural issues that remain relevant today. Added bonus: the author is a former criminal defense attorney who grew up in Jefferson City, and locals will appreciate the Central Missouri setting and references to Columbia.
Three words that describe this book: moving, engrossing, perceptive
You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy coming of age novels, crime novels, novels that address racism, or novels set in Central Missouri. If you check any of these boxes, you will appreciate “Nothing More Dangerous.”
“Between the World and Me” is written by the author as a letter to his teenage son. It describes his life growing up and living as a Black man in America. He speaks frankly and bluntly about the way systemic racism has shaped his behaviors and self-perception in today’s world. This was a great book and I really liked it. It gave me a small taste of what it is like to live in America as a Black man, something I can never experience. It also was a personal call to action against the deeply ingrained policies and systems put in place in our country.
Three words that describe this book: Powerful, Moving, Vivid
You might want to pick this book up if: you are seeking to understand the world from another perspective and to learn more about the systemic racism in our country.
“Recipe for A Perfect Wife” is about a modern-day newlywed who finds herself in a new house that is actually old and has some stories she ends up unearthing and digging into. It’s two stories in one, from the past residents of the home, to the present, and woven together very nicely. Here is my review: I absolutely loved this creation! Absolute pure, dark genius! I mean it! Really, really fabulous. I think that’s what I said aloud, at least, as I closed the book after reading the final acknowledgements. I loved the recipes, and the quotes at the beginning of the chapters. The story of the past and the story of now and how they coexisted was spectacularly formed and woven, and it was funny, dreadfully awful, and inspiring all at the same time. How do you DO that? Why don’t more authors DO THAT?! I loved reading the little author’s recipe in the back, and seeing some of the other author names listed made me happy because I have their their books too. This book drew me in from the very beginning, never lost me for an instant, never disappointed me in any way, and was better than I had expected. I had read some snippet about this book from BookBub and put it on my Goodreads “to read” list and waited through the holiday, then the coronavirus (and we’re still kind of there, but at least now finally the library has curbside open and I could finally get this book), and it was worth the wait. I will read it again, or own it even. Loved it! It’s going to sit with me for a while, and I’m so glad.
Three words that describe this book: entertaining, haunting, beautiful
You might want to pick this book up if: You liked “Julie and Julia,” or if you want a blast from the past.
“Brave, Not Perfect” is about empowering women to just be brave enough to try. It talks about how women are raised to believe in order to try something, they must be perfect at it. This isn’t the case! The author gives many motivating and heartfelt examples of how she or others have tried and failed or tried and succeeded, but the most important thing was that they tried. I think it is absolutely true that we are not taught that failure is okay. We are taught to be perfect and anything short is detrimental; the judgement from other women for not being perfect (or even their version of perfect) is astronomical. I can very much relate to what she is saying. In a society where everyone wants to prove everyone wrong, I feel stupid when people correct me, and it shouldn’t be like that. I think it is important what she is doing: telling women it is okay to apply for jobs you don’t 100% qualify for, or to learn about coding, or to fail. The important thing is to be brave, not perfect.
Three words that describe this book: Empowering, Motivating, Women
You might want to pick this book up if: You need a boost to help you jump-start that thing you’ve been too nervous to try.
“Terra Nullius” is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of colonization. Realistic multiple perspectives? Check. Accessible, concrete language? Check. Timelessness? Check. Interesting, original plot line? Check. Written by someone with skin in the game, not just a research project? Check. One of the things I most appreciated about this book was it avoided the simple “cry for the poor victims” or “rage against the oppressor” or “bear ALL the guilt” approaches — it addressed all of those things, but the aftertaste of this book is acknowledgment of the problems and HOPE for finding improvements now.
Three words that describe this book: soulful, active, hopeful
You might want to pick this book up if: You can’t decide if you want to feel things or you want a fast-paced story– have both!
I grabbed “You Are Here” spur of the moment off a recommendations shelf at the library, and every time we opened it, the whole family, from age 45 down to age 7, were mesmerized. Every page or two I said, “Wow.” And then again, “Wow.”
Chris Hadfield took photos from the International Space Station, but not just big visions of a grand earth. He zoomed in to small(ish) geographical features and applied whimsy and imagination to what he saw, creating shapes out of them the way we do with clouds.
It’s a picture book accessible to all ages and a book I may just have to buy for my coffee table (assuming I ever have one again!).
Three words that describe this book: Wonder, beauty, nature
You might want to pick this book up if: You’re fascinated by photography and space.
“Little Women” was a favorite book during my girlhood. I’m happy to find that it’s still a favorite book now! So well-written, so filled with valuable lessons of life, so full of hope and goodness! As a girl, I enjoyed reading about the games they played — giving plays, P.C. and P.O., Camp Laurence, Castles in the Air and Amy’s will. Upon re-reading them, I find them still every bit as enjoyable! And this time around I appreciated, more than when I was young, the life lessons learned by the sisters — Meg’s Vanity Fair, Jo’s Apollyon, Amy’s lime drop anguish and her later failed attempt to host a stylish luncheon, Meg’s ups and downs after her marriage. I also loved some of the vignettes on interactions between the characters — Beth going over to Mr. Lauren’s to thank him for the new piano, Laurie following Jo on her way to submit her manuscript, Laurie’s reaction after Jo refused him, Beth confiding to Jo at the seashore about her terminal illness, Meg’s wedding in which she chose not to follow traditional customs, Marmee’s heart-to-heart talks with Jo, and the March family giving their Christmas dinner to a poor family they knew. After reading Louisa May Alcott’s journal, I can tell a lot of these content came from real life experiences of her and immediate family, which makes me like the stories even more. Love, love, love the book. Will probably read it again in another couple of years.
Three words that describe this book: Fun, hear-warming, hopeful
You might want to pick this book up if: You want to read good, heart-warming historical fiction that gives a reader a sense of hope.
If you, like me, have been scared off by the hype around “Where the Crawdads Sing,” stop running — it totally lives up to its reputation! The story follows Kya, a woman living in the North Carolina swamps, both as a young girl growing up alone and as a grown woman. An outcast from her community, Kya is almost completely isolated. When the town playboy turns up dead and his past with Kya is revealed, she has to try and break through both the town’s distrust of her and her own defenses. Part romance, part murder mystery, and part coming of age, this book always has something to keep you turning the pages. Owens’ writing is atmospheric and enchanting, and the love Kya shows for her marsh is almost enough to make me want to brave the mosquitoes and see it myself.
Three words that describe this book: Atmospheric, Suspenseful, Heartbreaking
You might want to pick this book up if: You love suspense, stories about broken but strong women, and Southern accents.