Book review roundup

Another roundup of my latest book reviews, and all I can say about this bunch is: we need more Lumberjanes in our lives!

NimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson

A few months ago Jodi praised Nimona by Noelle Stevenson and I kept hearing about it from other people, too. I finally read it and I’m happy to say the praise is well deserved. Nimona is a damn good time.

I loved Nimona by the end of chapter one, which is actually only two pages. No exaggeration, two pages was…continue reading

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Andersallthebirdsinthesky

I started reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders while I was getting new tires put on my car and when they finished in under an hour, I was annoyed. I loved the 50some pages I had read and didn’t want to stop. I felt that giddy excitement as I continued with the story, but midway through it slowly started going downhill. I still don’t quite know how I feel about it, but maybe when I finish writing this I’ll have a better idea. …continue reading

thefloodgirls-185x280The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

I grew up on a farm, near very small towns, and small towns have their good and bad. We often hear about the bad, like gossip running rampant, but the good outshines that, like when people brought us weeks of food, pop, and supplies after my dad recently passed. That sort of goodness is why I’m drawn to stories about small towns, like The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield.

In The Flood Girls, Rachel Flood has returned to Quinn, Montana to make amends. …continue reading

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevensonlumberjanes-vol-1-185x280

I wish I had the Lumberjanes when I was young. Following five girls – Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley – at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types, Lumberjanes is a female-centric, girl-power, fantasy romp that is so much fun it’s ridiculous.

At camp, the girls continually sneak out of their cabin, and away from their uptight scout leader Jen, to have adventures in the nearby forest. They save…continue reading

thereadersofbrokenwheelrecommend-185x280The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is a sweet, small town story filled with secrets, romance, and a bunch of books.

Sara, a young, twenty-something bookseller from Sweden, has been carrying on a correspondence with Amy, an old, retired woman from a small town in Iowa, for years. Their correspondence started when one sold a book to the other and they have been writing letters to each other ever since, letters filled with book love…continue reading

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Riversthegirlinthewellisme-185x280

Taking place almost entirely inside the well where Kammie Summers is stuck, The Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers is a great middle grade novel about bullying, family, friends, and being true to oneself.

11-year-old Kammie and her family moved to be closer to her dad, who is in prison. We don’t see this, but we learn about it after Kammie gets stuck in a well as part of an initiation gone wrong. …continue reading

theimitationgame-185x280The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottavani

I recently watched the movie “The Imitation Game,” and it’s a great movie, even if it’s not very accurate. For instance, did Alan Turing name his decoding computer Christopher after a childhood friend he crushed on? Nope. Did Joan enter Bletchley Park after solving Turing’s crossword puzzle? Another big nope. How about Turing proposing to Joan so she could stay at Bletchley? No again. They were engaged, sure, but that’s not why or how it happened. And did Turing know the Soviet spy at Bletchley? Another no-no. It’s still a great movie, but there’s a lot of Hollywood shine added to it.

I say all of this to tell you that if you want to know the true story of Turing and his computer (named Bombe), then you might want to start with the graphic nonfiction The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani. …continue reading

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Fayejane-steele-185x280

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is being called a retelling of Jane Eyre, and in this retelling Jane is a serial killer. But I don’t think either of these things is completely true.

In Jane Steele we follow the Jane from the title. She has read and is a fan of Jane Eyre. Looking back on her life she makes comparisons between herself and Jane Eyre, quoting the book throughout the story. …continue reading

The Sisters Brothers

sistersbrothersIt’s 1851, and Charlie and Eli Sisters work for the Commodore, a corrupt leader who orders them to kill people who get in his way. The Commodore tells them to go to California to kill Hermann Kermit Warm, no questions asked. Charlie is a drunken killer and has no problem with the orders he received, but Eli isn’t as wicked as his brother, and on their ride across a couple states, their relationship slowly starts to crumble.

Their wild ride in Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers includes trouble with a rival gang leader, a dentist visit, a weeping man, a teen who was left behind, a foray into the California gold rush, and trouble with some horses. I can’t even tell you how much I loved Eli’s horse Tubs and what he goes through. I may have had a tear in my eye over a damn horse.

But I loved so much more than the horse. This was a great book. It was serious, funny at times, and a throwback to some old westerns where there is a grand, life-changing journey, like True Grit or Lonesome Dove, though the narrator here is more formal than in those journeys.

Eli tells the story, and he can be very formal and give great detail, but other times he’s funny and even vulgar, particularly about some of the murders they do. But what’s best about Eli is that we get his internal monologue. He’s contemplating changing his lifestyle, but he’s used to following along with his stronger, overbearing brother and feels trapped. I was fascinated with Eli and couldn’t stop turning the pages to see what would happen to him. His internal struggle, their struggles on the journey, and where this all goes was great.

I also loved the landscape and history in the book. We get an idea of the medical field at the time, both for humans and animals. We learn about the California gold rush and what San Francisco looked like at that time. We see all the political power plays that happen and the lawless way they are resolved. We learn about the harsh geography and traveling across it on horseback.

People have been telling me to read this book for awhile, and, again, they were right. This is a great book that could be widely read. Anyone interested in westerns or historical fiction would like this, but if you like following interesting characters, Eli is for you.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.

The Bookman’s Tale

bookmans taleShakespeare is always at the top of my favorite-authors list and I’m a sucker for Shakespeare retellings and Shakespeare in literature, and I get weirdly, obsessively pissed over conspiracies claiming it wasn’t the Shakespeare I know and love who wrote his plays. I tend to avoid monstrosities like the movie “Anonymous” and crackpot research claiming it was Marlowe or Elizabeth I. If you want a good book about how Shakespeare could’ve (and did) write the plays, read Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt.

The reason I bring up Shakespeare is that I just finished reading a lovely novel that I wish were real because it would put Shakespeare authorship questions to rest.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett is told in three interconnected stories: one set in the 1990s with Peter grieving over his wife, Amanda; one set in the 1980s when Peter met Amanda; and one that begins in 1592 and includes a Shakespeare artifact.

Grieving over the loss of his wife, Peter moves to the English countryside and dives into his work as a bookseller. He buys, repairs, and sells rare books to collectors, and in one rare book he discovers a watercolor of Amanda, only it was created 100 years prior. Peter becomes obsessed with the watercolor and as he learns more about it he also stumbles upon a book that may prove, once and for all, that Shakespeare wrote his plays.

This is the type of mystery I love, one surrounding books and history more so than murder. And though this is a mystery, it’s not extremely suspenseful or shocking, with twists and turns around every corner. It does have its moments, but it’s a much more subtle, charismatic tale about the rare book world and history come to life.

Besides the mystery, I also loved the story of Peter and Amanda. Going back and forth between the 80s and 90s worked perfectly and we can see how awkward both of the book nerds were in college and how much they grew together. It really is a great love story and I could feel Peter’s pain over his loss.

And, lastly, the big thing I loved here was Shakespeare. He actually plays a very small role, but what he does touches so many other people in this tale, and seeing how it affects them is great. I could’ve read a book all about this story and left out the grieving bookseller.

But don’t get me wrong, I loved Peter the bookseller and his quest for answers, and these three stories come together perfectly in the end. To get to the end we get glimpses of Shakespeare and underground book deals, insights into the rare book world, and we come away feeling a profound love of literature. It felt like a gigantic hug to all the book lovers out there.

Reviewed at Minnesota Reads.